Panopticon’, is a house of incarceration where the inmates are to be kept under constant surveillance by their goalers. Panopticon is a type of institutional place, where all prisoners to be observe under a single security guard. In its place of a model prison, it soon became notorious for unprecedented levels of corruption, cruelty overcrowding, and torture.
One of most chilling, fascinating and memorable place is five kilometers from Nueva Gerona. Now, almost roofless, fitting have been looted, apart from museum. The flat floor with only a central tower, that is monolithic pillar was a gun tower, here a single armed guard observed all prisoners, but they could not see him, and never knew if they were being watched.
The British philosopher, social theorist and prison reformer Jeremy Bentham first conceived this new type of prison in the 1780s. He was after being inspired by an observation platform at Prince Potemkin’s estate in Russia which allowed foremen to direct gangs of peasant workers. The system Bentham imagined would be both efficient to run, requiring fewer staff.
The interior of the mess hall. Photo Credit - Atlas Obscura
The interior of the mess hall. Photo Credit – Atlas Obscura
Therefore, he believed, to improve the behavior of jailbirds into the bargain, leading them to emerge reformed at their end of their terms. Though it attracted the interest of the British government and the architect Willey Reveley was commissioned to draw up a plan for a building in 1791.
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However, Jeremy Bentham hopes of erecting his own “panopticon” on a site beside the Thames in London. That is now occupied by Tate Britain, eventually came to nothing. But the concept of outlived its creator and has ever since shaped the design of prisons and much else besides.
One of the finest examples – however thorny an issue the use of that adjective may be in this context. So, a panopticon prison was Presidio Modelo, itself modelled on the infamously unforgiving Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, USA.
Inside one of the buildings of the Presidio Modelo. Photo Credit - Wikipedia
Inside one of the buildings of the Presidio Modelo. Photo Credit – Wikipedia
Presidio Modelo was inaugurated in 1926 on what was then called the Isla de Pinos – or Isle of Pines – off the southwestern coast of Cuba by Gerardo Machado y Morales. The country’s democratically elected president turned repressive dictator. Hence, it was completed a few years later.
Presidio Modelo was composed of four sixty-storey circular blocks. Each overlooked by a central watchtower, of four sixty-storey circular blocks. Also, each overlooked by a central watchtower, and the facility was accomplished of housing up to 6,000 prisoners.
Two of its most well-known internees were the future Cuban leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro. Who were held there after their attempted revolt against the Moncada Barracks in Santiago in 1953? Therefore, six years later, the revolutionary Fidel Castro, triumphant over the American-supported government of Fulgencio Batista.
Plan of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon prison, drawn by Willey Reveley in 1791. Photo Source - Wikipedia
Plan of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon prison, drawn by Willey Reveley in 1791. Photo Source – Wikipedia
Who had himself helped lead the overthrow of Machado, began using the same prison to house his own political opponents? But after episodes of severe overcrowding, hunger strikes and riots. Hence, Presidio Modelo was permanently closed in 1967. Since designated as a national monument, this “panopticon” has, ironically, become an object of interest to sightseers.
The visitors walked along the walls with mouth wide open to see this astonishing, creepy and fascinating building. Currently, this historical prions and museum are in disrepair but still well worth to see abandoned building to dig deep Cuban history. In spite of all facts, this spooky place needs some government attention to revive the precious pieces of history. Also Read: The Alnwick Garden Poisonous Plants
Three of the five panopticon buildings that make up the prison portion of Presidio Modelo. Photo Credit - Atlas Obscura
Three of the five panopticon buildings that make up the prison portion of Presidio Modelo. Photo Credit – Atlas Obscura
The elevated watchtower in one of the prison buildings. Photo Credit - Atlas Obscura
The elevated watchtower in one of the prison buildings. Photo Credit – Atlas Obscura

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