Starting in 1936, anyone sent to jail for more than 180 days in Cuba was sent to the Model Prison. A replica of Joliet Prison in Illinois, United States, it opened that year, after 10 years of construction on the Isle of Pines, now called the Isle of Youth.
According to history, a few months after assuming the presidency of Cuba (on May 20, 1925), General Gerardo Machado
sent his secretary to the United States to tour the well-known U.S. prison, with the goal of building a similar one on the Isle of Pines.
According to specialists, that small island had the ideal conditions for such an institution, because it was close to and at the same time isolated from the rest of the country, making it difficult for prisoners to escape.
Construction began in 1926, but was halted when it was only half finished in 1929, due to the U.S. stock market crash.
And that`s really all that could have been expected, keeping in mind that from the first moment the head of the prison was Captain Pedro Abra
ham Castell, who wanted to cleanse society of criminals `through crime,` in the words of Pablo de la Torriente Brau, in his book Presidio Modelo (Model Prison).
When the complex had 3,000 prisoners, Castell told Machado, `General, when I leave here there will only be 600 men.` When the president was forced to step down on August 12, 1933, a total of 578 common prisoners had been murdered and their relatives were sent condolences for their `suicides.`
Twenty years later, at the end of October 1953, several of those who participated in the attack on the Moncada Garrison (Santiago de Cuba, July 26 of that same year), headed by Dr. Fidel Castro
, were interned there and remained until May 15, 1955. They were released as the result of an amnesty declared by General Fulgencio Batista
, due to strong public pressure.
In the 1960s, the facility stopped functioning as a prison. Today it is a museum revealing the real history of that institution. A tour of the facility includes a visit to the cells that were occupied by the young revolution
aries, including the one that held Fidel, who was the leader of the Centennial Generation - referring to the fact that the struggle against the Batista
dictatorship began on the 100th anniversary of JosÚ MartÝ`s birth.