When we think of prison, and the kinds of people who end up there, luxury is not the word that comes to mind. Prisons are funded by tax payers, and no tax payer who works hard for their money wants to hear that they are paying for convicted felons to live a life of comfort, relaxation, and more luxury than they do.
TV shows like Orange is the New Black make prison look like what we would expect. The daily lives of inmates are full of routine, and working for simple luxuries like a toothbrush, and deodorant. Inmates wear the same plain outfit day in and day out, and have a scheduled amount of free time. The living conditions provide the necessities like a bed, toilets, and showers, but offer little privacy. But not all prisons are as bare bones as the ones we see on TV. Here are 12 of the fanciest, most luxurious prisons in the world, and the inmates who are lucky enough the reside there.
Bastoy Prison, Norway
This minimum security prison in Norway is located on Bastoy Island, and is working to become the first ecological prison in the world. Inmates live in wooden cottages, and work on the prison farm.
During their free time they have access to activities such as horseback riding, fishing, tennis, and cross country skiing.
This year, the prison was awarded the 2014 Blanche Major Reconciliation Prize for “promoting human values and tolerance.” The re-offending rate of inmates after leaving this prison is around 16%, compared to the European average of 70%, so their methods must be working.
Justice Center Leoben, Austria
There are two inscriptions on the perimeter of this prison in Styria, Austria: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” which is taken from The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
The walls of the prison are made of wood, and shatter-proof glass, and some cells even have balconies (although they do include bars). The “pods”, or groups of 15, single-person cells include private bathrooms, and a shared kitchen.
Prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes, because as the warden explains, “the more normal a life you give them here, the less necessary it is to re-socialize them when they leave.”
Champ-Dollon Prison, Switzerland
This prison in Geneva, Switzerland used to have the typical problems of overcrowding, riots, and disease, before the country devoted $40 million to giving it a facelift. The anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe gave it bad reviews in 2008, and Switzerland decided to turn the prison’s reputation around. A whole new wing was built, which includes triple occupancy cells, each with their own bathroom. The conditions in the prison have been described as being as comfortable as a 3-star hotel.
Pondok Bambu Prison, Indonesia
This women’s prison in Jakarta, Indonesia holds mostly drug related offenders, and is one of the few prisons to have a methadone clinic to help former drug users kick their habit. To pass the time, the inmates attend beading classes, or visit the beauty salon (which costs extra). There are also regular karaoke nights. The prison is focused on rehabilitation for former addicts, and hopes to help reduce the prevalence of HIV amongst drug users in Indonesia.
JVA Fuhlsbuettel Prison, Germany
The decor in the newly renovated prison for inmates serving long sentences in Hamburg, Germany is reminiscent of a castle, rather than a jail. Spacious cells include a living room area, desk, and private bathroom with a shower.
Inmates also have access to brand new washers and dryers to do their own laundry.
Sollentuna Prison, Sweden
Most prisoners have to rely on their own body weight, and makeshift workout techniques (like running laps in the yard), in order to stay in shape while serving out their sentence. But in Sollentuna Prison in Sweden, inmates have access to a fully loaded gym. They are also able to cook their own meals, and watch TV on their own couch. Sounds a lot like being at home, except for the fact you can’t leave. In recent years, Sweden has actually been closing down prisons because of a lack of prisoners. The country has chosen to spend the majority of their time, money, and energy on working to prevent and reduce crime.
Halden Prison, Norway
Built in 2010, Halden Prison has a capacity of 252 inmates. Norway’s prison system is already known for its focus on human rights and respect, so Halden was built, and is now run, with those things in mind. Inmate cells include a TV, fridge, large, unbarred windows, and designer furniture. Most guards are unarmed, because guns create “unnecessary intimidation and social distance.”
The purpose of spending time in prison is rehabilitation, so all inmates have the opportunity to grow, and rejoin society as a productive member, when their stay is over. When an inmate is released, he must complete a questionnaire about how his prison experience could be improved.
Aranjuez Prison, Spain
Aranjuez Prison is notable for being the only prison in the world with cells for families. Usually, if a baby is born to an inmate, the child is sent to live with family on the outside, or goes into foster care. But this Spanish prison allows the children to stay with their parents behind bars up until they are 3-years-old. The child has enough toys, and other children to play with, and still gets to bond with their parents. The prison hopes to give families a better chance of a normal life after their sentence is served.
Cebu Prison, Phillipines
Spending day after day in the same building must get monotonous. But at Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, at least you can join the dance group. The dance program started as a way to give the prisoners a source of regular exercise, but when they started choreographing complicated routines, and posting videos online, the inmates became internet celebrities. Their most well-known routine is to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Cereso Chetumal Prison, Mexico
Not many prisons can say they have very little violence amongst inmates. But Cereso Chetumal Prison in Mexico has figured out a strategy to keep violent outburst to a minimum. Basically, if there is a disagreement, the inmates are given a pair of boxing gloves and put into a ring, and the dispute is over within a couple rounds. Catharsis at its finest, or a real life fight club? The inmates are also encouraged to create their own art, and given the opportunity to sell their work to tourists, and other inmates. There is even an area called the “conjugal hotel”, where incarcerated couples can spend time together.
Addiewell Prison, Scotland
Addiewell is designed as a “learning” prison, where prisoners can address their offending behaviour and the circumstances which led to their imprisonment. The learning aspect aims to improve prisoners employability prospects, their well being and community support networks.
The modern decor is functional, as well as clean, and comfortable. The prison has a capacity of 700, and holds male inmates who have been convicted, and some who are awaiting trial.
Cordillera Jail, Chile
This jail in Santiago, Chile housed only 10 inmates who were former military officials convicted of crimes against humanity. The jail, which was low security, and offered tennis courts, a pool, barbecues, private bathrooms, and personal trainers. The inmates lived in private cabins, and enjoyed conditions far better than other prisons in Chile. But the prison was under a lot of scrutiny, and criticized for giving special treatment to its inmates, especially after a high profile inmate, Manuel Contreras mocked the prison guards, saying their only purpose was to “hold his cane.” The Chilean President ordered the prison to be shut down in 2013, and all the inmates were transferred to another special prison for human rights violators.