Famous prisons turned into tourist attractions

Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng

Prisons are built and used to keep criminals physically confined and usually, deprived a range of personal freedoms. They are there to maintain and see to the care and custody of those persons determined by the law as threats to the community with emphasis toward their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.  Prisons were never intended to be criminal resorts.
Historically when a prison was shut down usually the prisoners were grouped and taken to other prisons. Leaving some of the prisons abandoned and left to rot, but others are redeveloped as tourist attractions, allowing the public to tour their mysterious walls. Here is a brief history of some of the world’s harshest and most famous prisons closed and reopened as tourist attractions.
alcatrazThe federal prison on Alcatraz Island (http://www.alcatrazhistory.com/rs1.ht) in the chilly waters of California’s San Francisco Bay held some of America’s most  dangerous criminals during its years of operation from 1934 to 1963. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the notorious gangster Al “Scarface” Capone (1899-1947) (http://chicagohs.org/history/capone.html ) and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud (1890-1963) (http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/famous/stroud/index.html) .  After the prison was shut down due to high operating costs, the island was occupied for almost two years, starting in 1969, by a group of Native-American activists.

Tower of London
tower of londonNow home to the British Crown Jewels, the Tower of London (http://www.ancientfortresses.org/history-of-tower-of-london.htm) served as a prison from 1100 to the mid-20th century. Famous prisoners include Sir Thomas More, King Henry VI (http://www.britroyals.com/kings.asp?id=henry6) , Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (wives of King Henry VIII) (http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/queenexecution.htm) , and Rudolph Hess.
Today, the Tower of London is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions. It is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces, and is protected as a World Heritage Site.

Robben Island
robben IslandThe Robben Island Museum (http://robben-island.org.za/) can be found in Cape Town, South Africa. The island is, surrounded by shark infested waters destine to keep the prisoners locked on her shores. The island started out as a home for the mentally ill(http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam041/2002031403.pdf) and criminally insane, but later it was used for isolation of mainly political prisoners.

Chateau d’lf, France
Chateau d'lf, FranceThe Château d’If (http://www.destination360.com/europe/france/marseille/chateau-dif) is a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If, the smallest island in the Frioul Archipelago situated in the Mediterranean Sea about a mile offshore in the Bay of Marseille in southeastern France. It is famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo(http://inclassicstyle.com/books-authors/the-count-of-monte-cristo-alexandre-dumas/).

Devil’s Island, French Guiana
Devil's Island, French GuianaDevil’s Island (http://frenchguianasa.com/devils-island-french-guiana/) in French Guiana represents one of the most notorious penal colonies that were formed in over the last few centuries. Located on the small islands  about 11 kilometers of the coast of this South American country, this prison was home to many French worst criminals, political and military prisoners. Stories about this infamous prison became public at the start of the 20th century, and after around 100 years of activity it was finally closed in 1946.

Elmina Castle, Ghana
Elmina Castle, GhanaBuilt in 1492, Elmina Castle in Ghana (http://www.dearghana.com/attractions/elmina-castle/) is the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara. For over 300 hundred years, it served as a holding area for people captured against their will to be sold into slavery.

Goree Island, Senegal
goree islandGorée (http://goafrica.about.com/od/peopleandculture/a/goreeisland.htm) is a  famous destination for people interested in Atlantic slave trade. It is a 0.182 square kilometres  island located 2 kilometres at sea from the main harbor of Dakar


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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