9 Former Jails With Surprising Second Lives

9 Former Jails With Surprising Second Lives

The United States may be known as the “incarceration nation,” with about 1% of its population behind bars, but after decades of aggressive sentencing, the number of inmates is finally on the decline.

In fact, prison populations are plummeting the world over from the Netherlands to Jamaica — and fewer inmates means fewer prisons.

While some decommissioned jails rot away like best-forgotten eyesores, others have found surprising second lives as everything from luxury hotels to concert halls and wedding venues.

Here’s a look at nine unusual life-after-prison stories in which former jails have opened their gates to start anew.

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The 17th-century Convent of the Penitents has went through multiple transformations. It served as a prison in the 18th and 19th centuries then reopened as a music school in 1990. French design studio Opus 5 gave the historic complex a stunning revamp in 2012 that included the addition of a concert hall and music library.

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Her Majesty's Prison in Belize City dates back to 1855. The facility didn't close its doors until 1993 and spent the next decade undergoing refurbishments before the National Institute of Culture and History opened it as the Museum of Belize in 2002.

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A jail used to detain political prisoners during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Valparaiso Prison closed in 1999 and re-opened in 2013 as the Cultural Park of Valparaiso. Past exhibits include the mural "A Pablo" (For Pablo) by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei -- a tribute to Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

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No concrete cells here. Guests of the old Sultanahmet Prison -- now a Four Seasons hotel -- nod off in king-size beds with the finest linens.

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This jail 15 minutes north of Melbourne's CBD was built in 1851, decommissioned in 1997 and recently converted into a hip space for everything from weddings and fashion shows to conferences and cocktail parties.

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Guests at the Hostel Celica, a former Yugoslavian military prison, sleep in one of 20 artistically redesigned jail cells.

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Born out of the ruins of the notorious Broad Street Prison, Lagos Freedom Park opened in 2010 to commemorate 50 years of independence from Britain. This airy leisure spot includes a museum, art gallery, ponds, fountains, shops and restaurants.

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A former medium-security prison that closed in 2001, Virginia's Lorton Reformatory is currently being redeveloped into a mixed-use community. One of the already finished highlights is the Workhouse Arts Center, a collaborative visual and performing arts  space.

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via CNN

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