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Book source: Iles du Salut, Guy Delabergerie, ISBN 84-85278-25-9 De Geschiedenis van het Bagno van French Guyana, De West, 1979 no ISBN

Subject: [History, Tourism] French Guiana- Iles du Salut

Tourists visiting Suriname often go to neighboring French Guiana for a visit to Iles du Salut or 'Devils Island.' First some history- On April 25, 1852 the first group of prisoners left France for Guiana. The French government had planned to sent some 2000 prisoners to Guiana to do forced labor in the colony. The first group of prisoners came from prisons in Toulon, Brest and Rochefort and they arrived on May 1852 on the Iles du Salut. The death rate among the prisoners was high as from 320 prisoners who arrived in 1852 some 105 died within a few months. Most prisoners died from tropical diseases and the inhumane treatment while in prison. Very shortly Iles du Salut became overcrowded and a new prison and procesing center was opened in Saint Laurent du Maroni (across the river from Albina). This prison center was called the 'bagne'.

The prisoners (deporte) were classified as: murderers, burglars, and political prisoners. Those who committed crimes while a prisoner in Guiana were sent to Iles du Salut and placed in solitary confinement. Prison terms were actually doubled. Minimum prison time was 5 years and a prisoner whose time was up had to live an additional 5 years in French Guiana before he/she could return to France.

In 1889 some 28 female prisoners arrived in French Guiana. There was a plan to populate the colony with off spring from marriages between later released prisoners as they could not return to France immediately anyway. No more female prisoners were sent to the colony after 1914.

Iles du Salut consists of three islands: Royale, Saint Joseph and Diable (Devils Island).

The isle of Royale has two hills and a valley. There is a small chapel and nearby the prison cells. Here prisoners were kept who were considered undesirable to keep on the main land. There were houses on Royale for the prison director and guards, The total population of Iles du Salut was 700. There were 25 guards at Royale, 20 guards at Saint Joseph to guard the insane and two guards at Devils island to guard the political prisoners.

Captain Alfred Dreyfus found guilty of treason in 1894 was sent to Devils Island. He spent 5 years on Devils Island (1894-1899). He was found innocent in 1902.

Met dank aan Albert Buys

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