Originally the private residence of the Duke of la Force, the structure was converted into a prison in 1780.
A new prison for prostitutes was erected about the same time, and was called La Petite Force. In 1830 the two prisons were united, and put under one management, and the whole prison was converted to house males committed for trial. The prisoners were divided into two separate classes; the old offenders into one ward, the young and comparatively innocent into another.
The prisoners slept in large and well ventilated chambers, and the boys each had a small apartment which contained a single bed. The prisoners had the privilege of working if they wished, but they were not obliged to do so, inasmuch as they were on remand and not yet convicted of crime.
There was a department for the sick, a bathing-room, a parlor, and an advocate’s room, where the prisoners could hold conversations with their legal defenders. The number of prisoners was very great : ten thousand being under the annual average confined in the prisons.
Attacked by mobs during the French Revolution, the Princesse de Lamballe was allegedly gang raped and lynched in the prison’s courtyard. The prison was demolished in the latter part of the 19th Century.
Other detainees included:
- Claude Ledoux,
- Constantin-François Chassebœuf,
- Jean Sylvain Bailly,
- Pierre Choderlos de Laclos,
- Victor Claude Alexandre Fanneau de Lahorie,
- Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud and 12 other Girondist deputies,
- Claude Fournier
- Pierre-Jean de Béranger