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Saint Lazare as a Prison


When the Congregation received Saint-Lazare in 1632, it was a house of correction. It held people who were mentally ill and “incorrigibles,” badly behaved young men sent there for reform by their families. It continued to serve this function under the Congregation, with additional other categories of prisoners. Vincent de Paul called them his “boarders,” believed receiving them was a holy work, and insisted that they be treated fairly. In the eighteenth century, Saint-Lazare held Huguenots to be converted, but incorrigibles constituted the majority of the inmates. They were to be reformed by brutal punishment and spiritual retreat. During the Revolution, thousands of prisoners were there. It was a women’s prison from 1850 until its demolition at the start of the twentieth century. Profiles some of Saint-Lazare’s most famous prisoners are included.