by Rask Balavoine on 10/11/08 at 9:10 am
Prisons on islands are all notorious but they offer sea, sand, sun and loads of security and secrecy.
Most movie buffs are well acquainted with the idea of prisons built on islands. Alcatraz had its birdman, Devil’s Island had Dustin Hoffman, but there are others just as well hated by inmates who never made it onto the silver screen. Here are just a few:
CHATEAU D’IF, FRANCE
Solid and imposing, and sitting a mile or so off the coast in the Bay of Marseille, Chateau d’If was once one of the most hated and feared jails in France. More than 3,500 French Protestants found themselves incarcerated on the island prison, as did Gaston Crémieux, leader of the Paris Commune. He was executed on the island in 1871. From the gaoler’s point of view this was an excellent facility to be in charge of. It was heavily fortified, well armed and easily defended. Although within swimming distance of the coast, the island is surrounded by dangerous and unpredictable currents.
Chateau D’If’s most famous prisoner was of course a fictional character from Dumas’ book The Count of Monte Cristo, AKA Edmond Dantės. Wrongfully detained, Dantės was to escape to take revenge on his detractors, although no real life prisoner is ever known to have completed a successful escape.
Today trips to the island are readily available from Marseille harbour, and land-lubbers can enjoy spectacular views from the Church on the hill that rises above the city.
IMRALI ISLAND PRISON, TURKEY
This modern day working prison sits in the Sea of Marmara, Turkey. The island itself has had a chequered history, coloured by the fiery relationship between Turkey and Greece. At one time three Greek villages sat on the island, the villagers making their living growing grapes, making wine, fishing and turning out silk products. They all left in 1923, and until 1935 the island lay waste and generally uninhabited.
In 1935 the Turks established a semi-open prison on Imrali, and the prisoners were allowed to earn their keep by in the way the Greek residents had, by growing grapes and fishing. In 1999 things changed. The regular prisoners were re-located to other jails on the mainland, and one very special, high risk prisoner was dumped in the prison on his own. He is Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK. The 25square kilometres of rock serve also as a military base, a handy place to exert control on the Sea of Marmara in case the Greeks try to return.