Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Six sunburned prisoners going back to jail.

Didja know the DUNER BLOG has a slogan?  Yep! "Keeping You Informed on Stories You Might Have Missed."  We're reminding you because this week we have a goodie...a daring escape from a Mexican prison.  It all began on a dank, humid night at Islas Marias...the only remaining operating island penal colony in the Western Hemisphere.  Six determined prisoners hastily launched their craft of wood planks and empty plastic water containers into the Pacific Ocean and set sail for freedom.  All went well until the six compadres were spotted by a fishing ship 100 miles down the coast.  The captain quickly notified the Mexican Navy.  The men were sunburned but in good health and were returned..."within hours"...to the prison.

Anyhow, it seems everyone worldwide has a fascination with 'island prisons' and the curious situations they inevitably bring.  So were here at the DUNER BLOG decided to list our TOP TEN ISLAND PENAL COLONIES OF ALL TIME:

#10 ISLAS MARIAS, MEXICO.  Since its founding in 1902, Mexico's most hardened criminals have been dispatched here.  Since it's 100 miles to the shore, few have attempted to escape.  Those who do have all been captured.  So...unless Mexico solves its drug problems soon...it will remain open for a long time!

# 9 EBLA, ITALY.  This gorgeous island off the coast of Tuscany served as the site of Napoleon's exile.  While the island is no longer a prison and the French emperor is still dead...the two will be forever linked. NOTE: It was hardly a prison to begin with.  Monsieur Bonaparte was allowed six hundred servants.

#8 RIKER'S ISLAND, NEW YORK.  Although NYPD will tell you this is a jail and not a prison we here at the DUNER BLOG must include it on our list.  You simply can't watch and episode of LAW & ORDER without hearing it mentioned a dozen times.

Today, it's fun to visit Chateau D'If.
#7 CHATEAU D'IF, FRANCE.  Situated on a small island in Marseilles Harbor, this prison terrorized criminals for centuries.  Although the cells were mostly filled with evil French Huguenots, its most famous innate was actually fictional.  EDMOND DANTES, from the Dumas novel THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, was sent here.

#6  COIBA ISLAND, PANAMA.  This large tropical island had very little security...because it doesn't need it!  See, the thick jungles on the island are crawling with poisonous snakes.   The sea surrounding the island is horribly shark infested.  No need for any fences here!

#5 ROBBEN ISLAND, SOUTH AFRICA. Dutch for 'Seal Island,' it's located a mere seven miles of the coast of Cape Town.  It's always been a destination for the unwanted: contagious lepers, mentally-ill Boers, fundamentalist Muslims and zealous Zulus have all been detained here.  Today, it's a museum with a large exhibit dedicated to its most famous inmate: NELSON MANDELA.

#4 GOREE ISLAND, SENEGAL. A short boat ride from Dakar lies this tiny, but historically important, island.  Think of it as the opposite of Ellis Island...it's where three million slaves were held before being loaded on ships.  The ominous 'Door of No Return' has been visited by two US Presidents (Clinton and Bush) and was recently declared a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Devil's island looks scenic, but,,,
#3 DEVIL'S ISLAND, GUYANA.  This is the most dreadful prison in the history of humankind.  Not only was it located in the most remote place on earth, but it also infested with filthy rodents...It's estimated half of the 100,000 inmates died from disease.   The one successful escape attempt is documented in the book / movie 'Papillon.'

#2 ALCATRAZ, SAN FRANCISCO.  Originally an Arabic word (al qatras) for 'sea eagle,' San Francisco Bay's most strategic island has always been a lighthouse.  In 1850, President Fillmore signed legislation making it a military base as well.  After the 1906 fire and earthquake, inmates were sent there and a year later it was made a prison. 

#1 AUSTRALIA.  C'mon!  You knew it had to be the land 'Down Under!'  When the USA gained independence from England, Parliament needed to find a new place to send unwanted jailbirds and religious rejects...Hello Australia!  The first ship containing 778 convicts arrived on January 26th, 1788.  Today, this date is called 'Australia Day' and is the nation's major holiday.

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