Inside A Former Detention Centre

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +
SPONSORED LINKS END OF SPONSORED LINKS

“Is there another exit?”

“I don’t think so,” I laughed. “I’m guessing it’s kind of the concept here. You aren’t supposed to sneak out through a back door.”

We were almost done visiting Nantes’ historical prison, a former detention centre turned into an ephemeral art project. Built in 1867, it will be demolished soon. The last 400 prisoners were moved to another location in 2012 during a secret high-risk transfer.

My high school was a few metres from place Aristide Briand, a large square with the majestic courthouse, the national police headquarters and the detention centre. We were used to walking down the street, along the high wall, hearing prisoners inside. Sometime, they would have loud conversations with friends or relatives standing outside. Looking back, I realize how unusual it is to have such a high-security place in the heart of the city centre, metres from a high school and a middle school. But to us, it was normal. “This is where you’re gonna end up!” teachers would threaten an unruly classroom, pointing to the prison.

A few years ago, a new modern courthouse was built and the historical one was turned into a four-star Radisson Hotel. The police headquarters was renovated and converted into fancy apartments. The prison will be demolished next year and there will be nothing left of Nantes’ “law and order” district.

I wanted to see the exhibition but I was also curious to step inside a detention centre.

“Have you ever been there?” my mom asked as we were lining up.

“Seriously? I think you would have known about it!” I joked.

It was stormy and from the small inner courtyard with high walls and barbwires, the place felt sinister. Being locked up and being wrongfully accused rank at the top of my list of worst nightmares. I think I’d go crazy, counting down the days, hours, minutes.

Even with the amazing drawings and paintings, the detention centre felt claustrophobic with its low ceilings and narrow doorways.

I took a deep breath when we stepped back inside the courtyard and again after we walked through the main door. Free. Phew. Does putting people in jail ever make sense? Maybe to protect citizens in case of a dangerous, violent offender. But as a punishment, deterrent or repression tool, I can’t help feeling imprisonment is needlessly cruel and fairly useless.

Place Aristide Briand from the former courthouse, now a Radisson hotel

Former national police force headquarters

Former national police force headquarters

Outside the detention centre

Outside the detention centre

Outside the detention centre

Outside the detention centre

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

“Entrez libre” exhibition inside Nantes’ historical prison

Share.

About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

6 Comments

  1. Martin Penwald on

    In the U.S model of private jails, it makes sense : you have very cheap workers who don’t fall under federal working regulations (or if they do, they can’t complain about violations). So, profit!

  2. J’essaye de lire de plus en plus des articles sur la pensée abolitionniste. C’est vrai que ça change la perception des choses…
    Et ce dont Martin parle plus haut… C’est glaçant.
    Ceci étant dit, je trouve dommage que les lieux ne soient pas réhabilités (pour autre chose !) plutôt que démolis ! A Lyon (et je trouve ça très ironique), c’est la fac catholique qui a réhabilité la prison pour en faire des salles de classe…

    • Oui, je suis assez déçue du projet, des apparts de super méga luxe à 6 100 euro du mètre carré. Franchement…

      Le système pénitenciaire (et le système judiciaire) américain m’a fait repenser toute la prison et les peines. Je trouve les peines incroyablement lourdes… certains crimes aussi, mais le tout me paraît disproportionné. Et je ne soutiens pas du tout le “war on drugs”.

      • Martin Penwald on

        La guerre aux drogues est essentiellement une guerre aux pauvres, en particulier aux minorités ethniques, mais ça serait pas correct de l’avouer …
        Si ça ne tenait qu’à moi, toutes les drogues seraient légalisées pour un usage récréatif, avec vente dans des points spécialisés avec des personnes qui connaissent les effets des diverses drogues pour conseiller les clients. Et bien sûr, un contrôle qualité sur la marchandise qui éviterait un grand nombre de complications.

Leave A Reply