At first, this prison was only a fortified post founded in 1853 by the French colonial administration in the city of Berrouaghia. Beginning in 1914, the authorities transformed it into an agricultural penitentiary whose Algerian inmates were used as cheap labor for the exploitation of French colonial farms which had developed in the area.
Algerian revolutionaries were imprisoned here, and some subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Following independence, in the 1970s and 1980s, the penitentiary held political opponents such as figures of the Berber Printemps (Sa'd Saadi, Abdenour Ali Yahia, Ferhat Mehenni) and fundamentalists (Mahfoud Nahnah Ali Belhadj, Abassi Madani).
On November 13, 1994 a mutiny occurred among the detainees and was violently repressed by the Gendarmerie's Rapid Intervention Group (IRG). Official reports indicated 49 dead and hundreds injured, although the number of dead is still debated. This event provoked strong emotions in Algeria and the world, but no official was condemned. The prison currently holds political prisoners.