Last week I posted about the old women's prison torn down in the 1930's. Here's breaking news about the last prison in Paris, La Santé. Update today from the Guardian:
France is about to turn the page on a shameful chapter of its penal history by renovating its most notorious prison, La Santé.
La Santé, named after a neighbouring hospital in southern Paris, has held some of Frances's most famous prisoners in its colourful 147-year history. They have included poets Paul Verlaine and Guillaume Apollinaire, and the playwright Jean Genet, as well as Carlos the Jackal, war criminal Maurice Papon and the Algerian revolutionary leader who became independent Algeria's first president, Ahmed Ben Bella. Although the prison had a VIP wing, Ben Bella told an interviewer: "The French put me with the prisoners who were being guillotined. I could see the guillotine from my cell."
In 2000, the prison's chief medical officer was so shocked by the brutal conditions in the overcrowded jail that she published a diary about her seven-year experience that sparked a parliamentary inquiry.
"Three inmates fought with knives. I was standing in blood until about midnight. The next day, it starts all over again … multiple injuries. It's the humidity, the sun, the suffocating heat in the cells that makes them go crazy," Véronique Vasseur wrote in the diary. Her description of a jail infested by rats, cockroaches and lice was a vision of hell. Some prisoners in the cramped shared cells drank drain cleaner or rat poison to put an end to their misery and others suffered from skin rashes caused by the lack of hygiene with only two showers allowed each week, she said.
La Santé was built to hold 1,400 prisoners, but at the time of the exposé by Vasseur – who received death threats after publication – it was housing more than 2,300. Since that time the most insalubrious blocks have been closed, and on Sunday, the last 60 prisoners were moved out under reforms ordered by justice minister Christiane Taubira, who has ordered a four-year facelift.
When the prison reopens in 2019, it will contain 800 cells.
I'd meant to post about visiting under Gare de l'Est, the train station where many French soldiers, 'le poilu', left for the front in 1914. This time to highlight what we saw in the bunkers circa the Second World War, the war the Great War was fought to prevent. I'll let the photos do most of the talking.