In 1971, two convicts, Claude Buffet and Roger Bontems, took as hostages a nurse, Nicole Comte, and a prison guard, Guy Girardot. Buffet subsequently murdered them. Buffet and Bontems were captured. Bontems, whose defence counsel included Robert Badinter, contended that the murder was Buffet's idea.
On 16 January 2006, several detainees who were serving life sentences in Clairvaux Prison, having each spent from 6 to 28 years in prison, signed a manifesto denouncing the "false" abolition of the death penalty. They declared that it had resulted in a slow and continuous punishment, a death in life. They called for restoration of the death penalty.
The convicts specifically denounced the French Republic which claimed, in accordance with the "advises of the European Council", that the "enforcing of prison sentences... has been conceived not only in order to protect society and assure the punishment of the convict, but also to favour his amendement and prepare his rehabilitation". They stated, "In reality: everything is for the punishment."
- The Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin was imprisoned in Clairvaux for the five years between 1882 and 1886.
- Carlos the Jackal, international terrorist. Transferred to Clairvaux in 2006.
- Victor Hugo's short story Claude Gueux is set in Clairvaux.
- Guillotine.dk - Names Related to the guillotine (accessed 28 January 2009)
- "Des perpétuités de Clairvaux : '... nous en appelons au rétablissement effectif de la peine de mort pour nous'". Hacktivist New Service. 16 January 2006.
- "Press release issued by the Registrar: GRAND CHAMBER JUDGMENT RAMIREZ SANCHEZ v. FRANCE". HUDOC. European Court of Human Rights. 04/07/2006. Retrieved 14 August 2014. Check date values in: