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Coti-Chiavari Penitentiary

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Ancien Pénitencier
Posted on 11/02/2015 | Updated 10 years ago
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The History of the Penitentiary

Arch at the Entrance of Coti Chiavari Penitentiary
Penitentiary Coti ChiavariOld Penitentiary Coti ChiavariOld Powder Magazine Coti ChiavariSubmarine Old Manure Pit Coti ChiavariPenitentiary Arch Coti Chiavari

The opening of the Coti Chiavari penal colony dates back to the mid-19th century. It was in 1855, to be precise, that the first prisoners were transferred there by sea. It remained operational for just over fifty years before being permanently closed in 1906, with the inmates transferred to Cayenne.

The inmates were sentenced to relatively short terms at the time, ranging from 3 years to sometimes more than 15 years. The prisoners worked in a state of semi-liberty, supervised by military personnel.

The building is the principal element of a group of constructions situated around the area, spanning several thousand hectares, and includes a powder magazine and a manure pit.

Life at the Penitentiary

The site is notorious for its oppressive past regarding working and detention conditions. Unsanitary conditions and the work pace, coupled with general malnutrition, weakened the inmates, making them susceptible to diseases. These combined conditions caused numerous fatalities a few months after the penitentiary opened, with many falling victim to malaria. During this period, less than a quarter of the inmate population survived.

This particularly harsh context encouraged numerous escape attempts, sometimes with the complicity of villagers. For those who were caught and returned to the penitentiary, the punishment was meant to be a deterrent, involving 6 months of solitary confinement in deplorable sanitary conditions.

Agricultural Penitentiary and Dam Construction

The early years of the penitentiary were dedicated to land preparation, building construction, and road development, which were then followed by farming activities.

During their sentences, the prisoners cultivated and harvested crops. As the Coti Chiavari penitentiary was an agricultural penitentiary, the construction of a dam by the prisoners was undertaken to retain water and irrigate the fields. The dam, located upstream from the Penitentiary, was ingeniously designed and has withstood the test of time. It was recently restored, with the rehabilitation work completed in 2014. Water now flows as it once did, filling its approximately 25 thousand cubic meters.

The Penitentiary Today

Located on the road to Porticcio, overlooking the Gulf of Ajaccio and the peninsula of Isolella, the building now appears to be privatized, reserved for rental for the organization of various events.

The history of the Coti Chiavari penitentiary can be found in Dominique Boudon's book "Le pénitencier de Coti-Chiavari," published in 2006.