Despite strong protests from local residents, Madrid City Council went ahead with its plan to demolish Carabanchel jail last week. The local people had wanted its central dome to be preserved in memory of the hundreds of political prisoners who built it between 1940 and 1944 to house Franco’s political enemies. Many of the prisoners themselves also wanted to see it preserved. It was one of the biggest prisons in Europe until its closure in 1998. The structure followed the panopticon model devised by Jeremy Bentham in 1785. Until Franco’s death in 1975, the prison was used exclusively for members of democratic and leftist political parties and union leaders. After his death, it only housed common criminals and members of the Basque terrorist group ETA and other terrorist groups remained. After it closed down, the building was heavily looted and was used as a squat by marginal communities. Most of the prison walls are covered with graffiti, some of them very elaborate. The local authorities to build a housing complex, a leisure complex and a hospital on the land but the local residents hope they may build a replica of the jail’s landmark dome as a memorial to the struggle for democracy in Spain.


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