Famous Lasts The Last Prisoner on Devil's Island

About the last prisoner on Devil's Island, history and information about the French prison.


He was an unidentified man who refused to be repatriated when the penal colony was officially abandoned in 1953. He was last seen by some shipwreck victims who made it to the island in January, 1958. The final band of prisoners from the Devil's Island group was repatriated into France on Aug. 22, 1953. In its 99-year existence as a penal colony, an estimated 70,000 criminals were sent to suffer the "dry guillotine." Only 2,000 returned. Few escapes were attempted, for the Devil's Island group takes its name from the turbulent waters surrounding it, which signal death to anyone foolhardy enough to try to make a bid in a small craft. Throughout the colony's history, there were only 27 confirmed escapes by convicts. There were never more than a dozen prisoners at any one time on Devil's Island itself. The first prisoner was Alfred Dreyfus, who arrived on Apr. 13, 1895, after being falsely accused of treason. The death knell was rung when the French government abolished its penal colonies by decree on June 17, 1938. Unfortunately, W.W. II intervened, and hundreds of prisoners died while waiting for their release, which was postponed for another 15 years.

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