The largest of the 11 jails on the island, this prison dates from 1862. Thousands of prisoners were held here, with up to 200 prisoners crammed into each detention building. During the French era, all prisoners were kept naked and chained together in rows, with one small box serving as a toilet for hundreds. One can only imagine the squalor and stench. Today, emaciated mannequins that are all too lifelike re-create the era.
It's a huge complex, where political and criminal classes were mixed together. 'Solitary' rooms, for prisoners considered to be particularly dangerous, contained as many as 63 inmates, herded together so tightly there was no room to lie down. The prison church dates from the US era, but it was never used.