It happened in 1970. He was young and reckless. A Belgian guy had shown him the way to burgle houses, what he saw as a game, which led him to a three years of prison sentence whereas he was 22-years-old. By bad luck, a warden came between him and another prisoner at the time of a brawl, and his fist accidentally hit his facet. Sentenced to an additional year for that, he made a hunger strike, asking his transfer in another prison.
He had then been sent to Haguenau, a former military and bourgeois and hospital, according to historians', which would have known just one gloomy period during the war, when the German army used it to lock members of the underground army and political prisoner. After the war, Haguenau returned to a woman' prison, then would have become a mixed prison as from 1957 for the alleged innocents in waiting of their judgement, according to the historians.
The prisoners would have benefited from daily sports activities followed by compulsory showers, from studies, from workshops and Sunday film shows. A disciplinary district at the basement would have been a "cell without television". An appendix of the prison would have been reserved for the psychopaths, very few that the penitentiary staff was to treat as normal people. There were watchtowers, and guards had order to shoot at any prisoner who tried to escape, but those who where confined to isolation did not have right to the collective walks.
In 1970, there were no women at Haguenau, not even among the staff. The prisoner was greeted by a psychiatrist who asked him five questions, then had him tied to a bed for two weeks, in full isolation. He was injected nerve sedatives morning and evening, maintained in a semi coma until he accepted the replacement of the injection by a glass full of drinkable sedative, which he had to take to the last drop in front of the warden. He would then be able to hold on his legs and join the collective walk.
All the prisoners were under the same massive doses nerve sedative. Long period immobilization is a physical and mental torture considered inhuman in the psychiatric hospitals, for as long it exceeds between two to three days. It acted of a "chemical brainwash", only possible treatment that would enable to obtain that all the prisoners accept the drugs.
The prisoner was then going to learn that the doctors would chose some to evaluate the human physical and mental limit, and in case of good conduct, it was enough to say "no thank you", to be tied back to his bed for two weeks.
He has heard a man moaning that he was dying, and who died without a doctor coming to untie him. He has heard another man shouting that he was becoming mad, until his words had no more sense and that an ambulance came to take him away, proof that there was no quarter reserved to psychopaths. He has seen men eating twisted spoons to be able to rest at hospital. He has heard a guard saying to another:- "That is a good doctor".
"I have not known the 'Club Med' period of Haguenau. I was never been informed of 'Sunday film shows' or 'sports activities'. It was forbidden to play football in the yard and the prisoners could only take a shower on Sunday. There weren't any more television in the cells than in the disciplinary quarter. I was tied, injected sleeping medicine for four and a half months, thus around a quarter of the time I spent at Haguenau", he said.
Forced labour was not dissociable from the prison sentence then, until the law of June 22, 1987, reducing the prisoners to slavery in what was called "workshops". A prisoner had thrown benzene at him and immolated him. Back from the hospital, his entire body burned, he was tied to his bed for weeks. He was untied every morning and evening to go back to hospital and change his bandages, proof that Haguenau was not a hospital prison. He was then told that in order to prevent he might want to take revenge, the man who had immolated him would keep the normal treatment, and he would stay in isolation until the end of his sentence. He was released with more nerve sedatives than blood in the veins, without previous treatment to cure the intoxication: his body quickly withdrew in violent shakings.
The prison, a neo-classic monument built between 1783 and 1788, was closed in 1986, a year before the law abolishing the slavery of prisoners, then partially destroyed due to a "mushroom in its wooden frame".
It was a dry prison, assures the Haguenau survivor, who cannot imagine that a mushroom could have settle there, invincible at the point to justify the destruction of a prison (and 200-years-old historical building), whereas do not have enough cells for its prisoners. The middle part of building, presumably without mushroom, was transformed into a game library, inaugurated in 2001.
Historians just talk of the time the prison detained only women, among which Violette Nozière, famous in the thirties for having poisoned her incestuous father, but also her mother, to save her from the shame, the culpability and the remorse of having closed her eyes.
The silence that surrounds what has happened there under the guidance of French doctors, the number of prisoners transformed by force into unwilling laboratory guinea-pigs, one imagines the true reason for closing hides something else.
Official history of the Haguenau prison: http://www.netcomete.com/prison.html
Fondation Princesse de Croÿ: http://fondationprincessedecroy.over-blog.org/
Psychiatric abuses: http://misbruik-psychiatrie.skynetblogs.be/