They Transformed Former Prisons Into Luxury Hotel Experiences

19th Century prison
Zain Murdock
October 8, 2021

The Malmaison Oxford opened in 2016. But it was this year that the hotel gained virality on social media when influencers posting their vacations there struck a rightful nerve. 

Would you stay at the “most beautiful prison to get locked up in?”

The luxury hotel still maintains its original features, and it’s actually their selling point that people were once incarcerated and brutalized there. Influencers pose for photos there, with captions like, “Prisoner for the night!” And the Malmaison Oxford isn’t the only one.

If you google “prison hotel,” pages and pages of articles come up listing dozens more. These hotels joke about incarceration, encouraging guests to indulge in luxury while speculating about their “haunted” histories, or to boast about sleeping in what used to be cells confining well-known figures like Malcolm X. 

But it’s not just the hotels.

White celebrities, influencers, and even regular folk engage in this larger phenomenon. Mocking prison torture on reality TV. Taking photoshoots and getting married on plantations. Keeping the remains of Black bombing victims around like merchandise.

From plantations to prisons, white society normalizes sites of anti-Black oppression as just a fact of life. People can enjoy a tourism-like speculation of these places without feeling the weight of the suffering that occurred there. Our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being? To them, it’s just an afterthought.

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