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What Happened to the Last Prisoners When Devil's Island Closed?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: April 15, 2014 
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What happened to the last prisoners on Devil's Island when the prison colony closed in 1953, particularly to those sentenced to be there permanently?


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Established in 1852, the Île du Diable was one of six penal colonies in French Guiana (two of which were nearby islands), but it was the most notorious due to its being primarily stocked with political prisoners or the most hardened criminals under the most harsh conditions. As its reputation became undeniably embarrassing, France ceased sending criminals there in 1938 and planned to shut it down, although World War II interfered with those plans. It was finally closed in 1953 and most inmates were transferred to metropolitan France, although some asked—and were granted—the option of finishing out their time in remaining facilities on the Guiana mainland, subsequently settling down there.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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2 Responses to “What Happened to the Last Prisoners When Devil's Island Closed?”

  1. 1
    Robert Kapanjie says:

    I take it by the Guiana mainland you mean French Guiana, not British or Dutch Guiana ?

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