Devil's Island (French: île du Diable) is the third largest island of the Îles du Salut island group in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located approximately 14 km (9 miles) off the coast of French Guiana in South America just north of the town of Kourou. The island was a part of the controversial French penal colony of French Guiana for 101 years, from 1852 to 1953, but in spite of its being the smallest part of the penal colony, it is the most famous due to its use of internal exile of political prisoners. It is part of the Prison Island Swims.
Devil's Island was first used to house the prison system's leper colony.
The penal colony was controversial for it had a reputation for harshness and brutality. Prisoner-on-prisoner violence was common, tropical diseases were rife. Only a small minority of broken survivors would return to France to tell how horrible it was and scare other potential criminals straight. This system was gradually phased out and has been completely shut down since 1953. Nowadays the islands are a popular tourist destination.
Prison Island Swims
Devil's Island is one of the 8 open water swims of the Octad of Open Water Swims or Prison Island Swims that includes the following open water swims around formerly well-guarded isolated prison islands. Robben Island, Alcatraz Island, Spike Island and Rottnest Island are now 21st century sites better known for challenging open water swims with tricky currents and surrounding marine life. Convicts of the past have given way to contemporary open water swimming traditionalists and wetsuit-clad triathletes and swimmers.
- Le Château d’If (France), a fortress and former prison) located on the island of If in the Mediterranean Sea in southeastern France
- Fort Boyard (France), an oval-shaped fort and military prison located between the Île-d'Aix and the Île d'Oléron in the Pertuis d'Antioche on the west coast of France
- Devil's Island (French Guiana), is 14 km (9 miles) off the coast of French Guiana in South America and a well-known location of the French penal system and a leper colony
- Île de Gorée (Senegal), known as the location of the House of Slaves located off the coast of Senegal
- Robben Island, the former isolated prison home of Nelson Mandella and other South Africans 7.5 kilometers off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.
- Alcatraz Island, the former isolated prison home of Al Capone and other celebrated American criminals 1.5 miles from Aquatic Park in San Francisco Bay in California, U.S.A.
- Spike Island (Irish: Inis Píc), the former isolated prison home of infamous immates 2 kilometers off the coast in Cobh Harbour, Ireland
- Rottnest Island, the finish of a 19.7 km Rottnest Channel Swim west of Perth, Western Australia was used as an Aboriginal prison between 1838 and 1931 where Aboriginal men and boys were imprisoned