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GES255 - Lille District Prison, France

Prison, supposedly a place to reflect on your crime and better yourself before returning to society. As well as to be kept away from the general population and denied various freedoms as punishment. In reality, a crime school, and somewhere to learn about forceful sex and the importance of soap on a rope. I'd always been hoping it might be possible to explore a prison, abandoned of course, as I'd equally hoped I'd never end up in a live one. Exploring places you think/hope you'll never see inside of, are one of the key reasons myself and my peers want to explore places. I'd love to explore the House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, The US White House etc but it's likely never going to happen. So when I started seeing images pop up of an abandoned prison in France, my attention was immediately aroused. Sadly for various reasons I couldn't get there until a year later, when on a trip around the low countries with the missus, I blagged a stop here.

The first main use of this site was as an abbey, dating from the 12th Century. The Abbey in it's then current form was destroyed by the middle of the 19th Century. At the turn of the 20th Century a prison was built on the site. It was mainly to house those on less than 2 year sentences, as well as those awaiting transfer to other prisons. It was closed down in 2011, when a newer prison a few kilometres away opened. The prison has since been abandoned.

The prison consists of two main compounds, the Men's and Women's. They are divided by high walls with watchtowers. At the time, some enterprising chaps had made a whole in the perimeter wall into the Men's prison site. A similar hole into the Women's prison was sadly blocked off at the time of this visit.

Needless to say, I didn't enter through the front gate, as convicts and staff would have done.

On emerging through the hole in the wall, I got a glimpse of the Men's Prison in the early dawn light.

After getting past the perimater wall, the prison still offers obsticles to those seeking to enter, and for the incarcerated, exit. However, as can be seen in this picture, the gates had been helpfully 'opened.'

A walk through the basketball courts, and I was in an open area between the prison wings. The central control point's high roof dominates all external views of the prison.

I looked around the outer buildings first. Metal thieves had stripped the place, hence the state of the interior below. This would likely have been a workshop of some kind.

I got around to the front of the prison, and this trianglular section where prisoners would have arrived/departed. The large gate visible through the bars, is the reverse side of the one at the top of this write-up.

A half turn from the above pic, and the entrance to one wing of the prison.

Inside the door above, and the rooms were for administration. Also someone had got hold of a bag of plastic tops, and strewn them everywhere.

The end of the above corridor lead into the main central hall where the wings connect up. The area with the light pouring through is the holding pen.

This is the holding pen where prisoners would be held on arrival and departure for processing.

Passing into another wing with three floors of cells.

The large amount of steel in the prison adds to the foreboding atmosphere, this is a floor up from the previous picture.

Suicide nets line the open areas between floors, or to stop organised killings.

One of the cells still had personal artifacts left behind. Possibly a car thief.

The insides of another cell, and the joy of sharing your motions with your cell mates. Although the bar above implies there may have been a curtain to get some privacy.

Views of the outside world from behind bars. One of the watchtowers on the perimeter wall, and gardens below for growing vedgetables.

Another cell has views of the quadrangle with another basketball court in, now overgrown.

Off one wing were some isolation exercise areas, presumably for difficult prisoners.

Inside one of the isolation exercise areas.

Overgrown quadrangle with basketball court.

An exercise area with what would have been a covered shelter before being ripped up.

Tables laid out in another area, presumably for prisoners that played nicely with each other.

The glasshouse, one of the wings with a glass ceiling. This sits on top of the picture below, the light blocks on the floor carrying the light below.

Being on holiday with the missus, i thought it'd be a lovely and romantic place for her to join me on her first explore. My unborn son was also along for the ride.

The orange wing

Another wing with and odd area fenced off. I found a cell door which someone had smashed in half. I thought the doors would be classic steel or made of heavy wood. Instead they were made of many layers of plywood!

Wondering around the outbuildings, I came to a rough 'n ready area that was likely little used.

I found some electrical wire that had foot loops in hanging off a perimeter tower, so felt it rude not to pop up.

A view of the women's  prison across the way. I saw a possible access point into the compound, but sadly had no time left. A fellow explorer, Project Mayhem did a good report from the women's prison, accessed here.

And with that, I left to treat the missus to a trip to Ghent.

N.B. The images in this write-up have had all the tagging and graffiti removed. I did it for three main reasons, i) I hate tagging as it's unsightly ii) I liked the challenge of trying to remove the tagging and leave the photo looking realistic iii) the prison has been visited to death and numerous write-ups and pictures exist on the internet, and I wanted to offer something different. I also hope to have shown that as the pen is mightier than the sword, the Photoshop is mightier than the spray can!


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