PRISON TOURS as part of Dark Tourism
Touriosity Travelmag|November 2020
One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die. This life appears unbearable, another unattainable. One is no longer ashamed of wanting to die; one asks to be moved from the old cell, which one hates, to a new one, which one will only in time come to hate. In this there is also a residue of belief that during the move the master will chance to come along the corridor, look at the prisoner and say: “This man is not to be locked up again, he is to come with me.” – Franz Kafka in Blue Octavo Notebooks.

A niche segment of tourism is Dark Tourism, which includes Prison Tourism or Penal Tourism. The desire for Dark tourism often arises from the morbid curiosity of death and disasters. While this type of tourism has become more popular only since the last few decades, one must know that it has been in existence even centuries ago. One example of this is the huge popularity of gruesome gladiatorial fights during ancient Roman times when people travelled miles to witness these fights, or the huge crowding at medieval public executions, those during the guillotine beheadings of the 18th and 19th centuries as also the morbid Victorian-era morgue tours. Hence it is simply ‘old wine in new bottle’.

Prison tourism refers to the act of visiting erstwhile or even working prisons or prison museums, experiencing the life of a prisoner at various prisons, decommissioned or not, against a certain payment under a scheme introduced by the government in association with the prison authorities. It is claimed that visiting these places helps the tourist to establish a connection with the sufferer who once lived here and suffered the torture or punishment. Prisons, as a part of dark tourism, highlight the places of incarceration and suffering. Some former prisons have been turned into museums now, while some are popular for day trips wherein visitors get to know the interesting history behind, and yet others double up as hotels or provide a very unique ‘Feel the Jail’ experience where visitors pay to live the difficult life of a prisoner for a day. And the most interesting fact is that, there is growing demand for such kind of tourism!

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