A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison

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Joshua Melvin - [email protected]
A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
La Santé was open this weekend for guided tours. Photo: Joshua Melvin/The Local

The only prison in Paris, the notorious and historic La Santé was open this weekend for guided tours as it sits empty ahead of massive renovations. Here’s a look inside at a place that’s both fascinating and terrifying.


La Santé (which translates incredibly as Good Health Prison) is famous for being the only prison in the heart of Paris, but also for the unending string of famous captives who’ve passed through its doors.

First opened in 1867, it has held everyone from Carlos the Jackal to French bank robber and killer Jacques Mesrine who never met a prison he couldn’t break out of, including La Santé.

It’s also known for inhumanely harsh conditions which pushed a prison doctor to write a whistle-blowing exposé that detailed filthy inmates, uncontrolled vermin and mentally ill patients left to harm themselves. It's considered by some the most notorious prison in France. 

But now the prison, except for a small day-release programme, is empty ahead of a major renovation project.

It was open this weekend to the public for tours guided by the guards who once kept the place running and who have a remarkable nostalgia for what must have been a trying workplace.

Some people waited all day for a chance to get inside a place that many inmates spent their time trying to get out of.

GALLERY: Welcome to La Santé prison



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