Sark Island: Home to One of the World’s Smallest Prisons

If you’re prone to disorderly conduct, you may want to think twice about vacationing on the tiny island of Sark. Sark is part of the Channel Islands, which are located off the coast of Normandy, France. Since 1856, Sark has been home to a prison with two claustrophobic, windowless cells. If you have one too many drinks, you may find yourself spending the night in a 6-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide cell staffed by a volunteer constable and their assistant. Thankfully, anyone who commits a crime serious enough to be incarcerated for more than 3 days is transferred to a larger prison.

Sark Prison

Photo by Wikipedia

The lush island of Sark—which is often referred to as the jewel of the Channel Islands—is generally a tranquil place. There are no cars, so Sark’s 500 residents commute via bicycle, horse, or tractor. The area of the Channel where Sark is located is so quiet that in 2011, Sark was named the first Dark Sky Island in the world—which means that Sark is an excellent spot for stargazing.

Sark Prison’s most notorious occupant was a wayward nuclear physicist named Andre Gardes. Gardes was a French citizen who incorrectly believed that his lineage made him eligible to serve as the island’s Seigneur, or feudal ruler.

Sark Prison

In 1990, Gardes rowed to Sark in a small boat, armed with an automatic weapon and several posters announcing his intention to overtake Sark. Sark’s volunteer constable showered Gardes with compliments while Gardes was loading his gun. After Gardes warmed up to the constable, the constable punched Gardes in the face, confiscated his weapon, and carted him off to Sark Prison.

Sark Prison

Visitors are not allowed to tour the interior of Sark Prison, but you can rent a bike and take a scenic ride that will allow you to view the exterior of the building. The small brick prison with a green door and an inscription that reads “A.D. 1856” is a great backdrop for a photo.

In addition to being home to one of the world’s smallest operating prisons, Sark is also dotted with verdant plants that attract colorful butterflies, gorgeous sea caves that are teeming with seals, and a Buddhist rock carving that reads “hail the jewel in the heart of the lotus.” Sark has a surprising amount of variety for such a small island. Just be sure to behave yourself so that the volunteer constable doesn’t have to imprison you in a dank, closet-sized cell.

Location on Google Maps.

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