Going to prison isn’t exactly meant to inspire excitement in people. You are locked in a tiny cell most of the day, surrounded by criminals who have committed crimes beyond your imagination, and you have to eat, sleep, use the bathroom, and socialize on a set schedule that never changes.
Maybe you think “well they committed a terrible crime, they deserve to be locked up,” and while that may be true, everyone still deserves basic human rights. Even the criminals. There are prisons in the world that are so overcrowded, and underfunded that the inmates end up living in conditions we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. Imagine that was your mother, or brother in there.
The worst part about prison, and the part that makes it prison, is the fact that you are not allowed to leave, no matter how bad it gets. If that doesn’t scare you into obeying the law, then the following 11 prisons will.
Vladimir Central Prison, Vladimir, Russia
The largest prison in Russia is Vladimir Central Prison located about 100 miles from Moscow. It was established in 1783, and has housed some of the most dangerous political criminals Russia has ever seen, including Joseph Stalin’s son, Vasily Dzhugashvili. The minimum sentence served there is 10 years, and many of the inmates are serving a life sentence. The conditions inside the prison are compared to “Russian torture prisons”, and inmates are often beaten on a daily basis, both by guards, and by fellow inmates. One inmate even wrote a letter in his own blood, begging for help, but to no avail. Inmates who try to defend themselves end up worse off than they started.
Attica Correctional Facility, New York, USA
Located in the town of Attica, in New York, the Attica Correctional Facility has always been one of the prisons where the most problematic inmates are sent. A tear gar system is installed in the mess hall and industry areas and has been used to quell conflicts in these areas. Because of the overcrowding, riots are a huge problem.
In 1971, a riot killed 43 (33 inmates, and 10 guards, and civilian employees) people. Today, inmates serving a variety of sentences reside in Attica, but they all have past disciplinary issues in common. Notable inmates have included Mark David Chapman (who assassinated John Lennon), and David Berkowitz, the serial killer better known as the Son of Sam.
Camp 1391, Northern Israel
Camp 1391, nicknamed “Israel’s Guantanamo”, is an Israel Defense Forces prison camp for “high-risk” prisoners in northern Israel, less than an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. The prison’s existence was unknown to the public before 2003, probably because of the incredibly inhumane treatment of the inmates. Former detainees have reported sexual abuse, torture, tiny cells with no light, no running water, and frequent stretches of solitary confinement. Israeli officials maintain the prison hasn’t been used since 2006, but given how hard they worked to keep the prison a secret (even airbrushing it out of official satellite images), there is no guarantee it will remain closed, and no one would know. Until, that is, they find themselves inside its walls.
Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Nairobi, Kenya
This max security prison in Kenya was originally built to house 1,400 prisoners, but is currently populated by a shocking 3600 who live in extreme squalor. The prison has held many political prisoners, including rebel leader, Dedan Kimathi, who was executed in 1957. The condemned “G” block of the prison is the worst of all, characterized by frequent rape, beatings, and inhumane living conditions. Prisoners are forced to haul buckets of water every day, because there is no reliable water supply, meaning staying clean is also an impossibility. Leaving Kamiti alive but with severe psychological damage, is the only way to leave Kamiti.
Bang Kwang Central Prison, Thailand
Bang Kwang Prison, located 7 miles north of Bangkok, is a harsh prison that houses many death row, and long sentence prisoners, including foreign prisoners. All inmates are required to wear a leg iron for the first three months of their sentence, and death row inmates have their leg irons welded on permanently. It is also common for death row inmates to be given as little as two hours notice before being sent off for execution. All inmates receive a single bowl of rice in vegetable soup per day, and must work to purchase any extra food.
Petak Island Prison, White Lake, Russia
“Russia’s Alcatraz” is located on an island in northern Russia and is home to some of the most dangerous and violent criminals Russia has ever seen. There is none of the communal fighting, rape and drunkenness common in some Russian prisons, but the regime is so unbending and inhuman that it eventually crushes even the toughest inmates. Each prisoner is kept in a small two-man cell for 22.5 hours a day, every day. Prisoners are only allowed two visits a year, and with so little outside contact it is no surprise that two of the current inmates have been declared clinically insane. Half the population has tuberculosis, and even the prison psychologist has said, “this place destroys people. The first nine months or so they spend adapting. After three or four years their personalities begin to deteriorate.”
Tadmor Prison, Syria
Located in the deserts of Syria, Tadmor Prison was known for harsh conditions, extensive human rights abuse, torture and summary executions before it was shut down in 2001. In 1980, the worst prison massacre in history took place there, with over 1,000 prisoners slaughtered in their cells because of an assassination attempt made on the President. Inmates were subject to extreme torture methods, such as being dragged to death, and some were even killed with an axe and cut into pieces after being randomly selected. The prison re-opened in 2011, and is again living up to its reputation as “the kingdom and death and madness”.
Camp 22, North Korea
Located in Hoeryong county, North Korea, Camp 22 is a political prison camp known for many human rights violations. Prisoners are mostly people who have criticized the government, and prisoners of war, and because of the belief in “guilt by association”, many of the inmates entire families are sent to prison for the rest of their lives as well.
A former guard at the camp has described the conditions as “harsh and life threatening”. About 30% of the inmates have some sort of physical deformity, and many are missing limbs. Most of the children die before the age of 10 because of malnutrition. Seriously ill inmates are quarantined, abandoned, and left to die, and inmates are often tortured and experimented on, causing permanent deformities, and eventually death.
Pelican Bay State Prison, California, USA
The 275-acre facility in Crescent City, California has an X section designed to keep California’s “worst of the worst” in solitary confinement. Inmates, who are mostly gang members, spend a minimum of 8 years in isolation, and many of them have reported extreme psychological effects from the confinement, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, hallucinations, depression, and sometimes suicide. There have been multiple hunger strikes, and even a lawsuit to fight against the inhumane use of solitary confinement, but it continues to be a huge part of the prison’s protocol.
Rikers Island, New York, USA
Despite its budget of nearly $860 million a year, Rikers Island is not exactly a place of luxury. It is the main jail complex in New York City, and until recently, everyone, including people arrested on misdemeanor charges was subject to a complete strip and cavity search. Violence among the inmates is largely ignored, and often encouraged by the guards, and neglect and abuse has led to multiple inmate deaths. Perhaps the scariest part of Rikers is the fact that you could end up in the same general population as dangerous criminals simply for getting caught evading a subway fare.
ADX Florence Prison, Colorado, USA
Referred to as “the clean version of Hell”, ADX holds some of the most high profile, violent criminals in America. The prisoners sent there are the ones considered in need of the tightest security. Inmates are held in their cells for 23 hours a day. They have no interaction with other prisoners and limited interaction with guards. Inmates receive no natural light and they are not allowed to spend more than one hour outdoors in a 24 hour period. It is believed that light deprivation is meant to mentally break inmates. The prison currently holds multiple Al-Qaeda members, drug cartel leaders, and organized crime lords.