Location: Maze, Northern Island
Notable Residents: Bobby Sands (Officer Commanding of the Provisional IRA)
Amenities: If you didn't wear your assigned uniform, guards wouldn't let you use the bathroom
Better known as the Maze, Her Majesty's Prison Maze was a maximum security facility in Northern Island. It was used to hold paramilitary prisoners during the height of the Troubles.
The prison opened in 1971, and was soon filled with political prisoners. Prisoners convicted of crimes after March 1, 1976, were sent to live in a new section of the prison known as "H-Blocks." These were eight new compounds created for prisoners who did not have Special Category Status, and identified themselves as political prisoners. Because they believed their uniforms were for criminals and not political prisoners, they refused to wear them. They were not allowed to wear their clothes, so they wrapped themselves in blankets. Guards would not grant them bathroom access until they wore their clothes, so they started defecating in their cells, smearing it on the walls. This was known as the "dirty protest."
HM Prison Maze was also the site of one of the 1981 hunger strike, a pivotal moment in Ireland's history. In October of 1980, seven prisoners refused food, demanding that their political status be recognized. Prisoners ended the strike when the government appeared to cave in, but quickly reverted back to their previous position, convinced prisoners would not begin another strike. Bobby Sands, Officer Commanding of the Provisional IRA, began a second strike on March 1, 1981. By May 5, the government still would not budge, and Sands died. By the end of August, nine more members of the hunger strike died, and the strike was stopped in October. Sands's hunger strike is captured in Steve McQueen's film Hunger, where Sands is played by Michael Fassbender.
In 1983, thirty-eight prisoners attempted to flee HM Prison Maze by stealing a lorry used for meals and breaking out. Nineteen were recaptured, but the rest escaped in what was the largest breakout in the history of British prisons. The Troubles came to a tenuous close thanks to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and prisoners were released. The remaining four prisoners were transferred to other prisons in September of 2000 and the prison was closed. The Maze was set to be demolished in 2006, but plans have since been paused.