French Guiana

Things to Do


Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni is quite a busy little town as it is on the river-border (the Maroni-river) with Suriname, therefore a lot of trade goes through it.

It has many colonial buildings, a church, town hall and a rainforets information centre.

Originally St. Laurent was the debarkation point for arriving French prisoners to the penal colony of French Guyana, the processing prison is still standing and offers tours daily.

The prison of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni was the main penal establishment of French Guiana for a century. Some of the buildings were restored in the early 1980s.

On 22 November 1850, Napoleon III declared: "Six thousand condemned men in our prisons weigh heavily on our budget, becoming increasingly depraved and constantly menacing our society. I think it is possible to make the sentence of forced labour more effective, more moralising, less expensive and more humane by using it to further the progress of French colonisation."

Some 70,000 prisoners - including Alfred Dreyfus and Henri Papillon Charriere - arrived between 1852 and 1939.
Those who survived their initial sentence were forced to remain in Guiana as exiles for an equal period of time, but as 90% of them died of malaria or yellow fever, the policy did little for population growth.

In 1951 the French closed the penal settlements.

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