5 Famous Historical Prisons From Across The Globe

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Updated on 22 Mar, 2018 at 5:17 pm


Prison has been used throughout time to incarcerate an array of criminals. From petty thief to horror-inducing murders, if they were caught, a prison was there to welcome them. We look back at five such famous historical prisons that carry the memories of the bygone era.

1. Sing Sing




This New York prison was named after the Sin Sinck Native American who originally lived there. It was built from 1825 to 1828, and from 1891 onwards many murders were electrocuted in the electric chair at Sing Sing. In 1969, the prison was renamed Ossining Correctional Facility.

2. Alcatraz



This island in San Francisco Bay, California, USA, is often known as The Rock but was originally called Isla de los Alcatraces (Isle of the Pelicans). It was first used as a military prison but then became a prison for the country’s most dangerous criminals, among them Al Capone, Robert Stroud, a bird expert who became famous as the Birdman of Alcatraz, spent many years there.

3. Devil’s Island



France’s worst criminals and political prisoners were sent to this prison off the coast of French Guiana from 1852 until 1938. Henri Charriere, know as Papilon, is one of the few inmates ever to escape. Conditions on the island were very harsh and many prisoners died due to diseases.

4. Dartmoor



Dartmoor was first used for prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars and has served as a high – security, long-term prison ever since. The prison is miles from anywhere on a bleak Devon moor so if prisoners escape, they are usually recaptured quickly.

5. Newgate



This was once London’s most notorious prison. Public hangings took place outside its gates, and it features in several of Charles Dickens’s novels. Newgate was rebuilt several times and finally demolished in 1902. The Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) was built on the site of the prison.


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