Most prisons throughout the world are modelled on the same general principles. There are usually a collection of cells where the prisoners will sleep and spend a significant amount of their time, some recreational areas to allow for games to be played and for inmates to relax, and general amenities such as bathrooms, kitchens and dining rooms. But not every single prison is built to the same specifications, and this means that some prison facilities are not exactly designed in the way you would expect them to be.
This article will look at the strangest and oddest prisons from around the world. These prisons are not your typical complexes for housing criminals, they range from those that are located in truly bizarre locations, to those that are home to crazy facilities and outlandish schemes.
10 Louisiana State Penitentiary – United States
In most respects, Louisiana State Penitentiary is like almost any other prison in the United States. From outside appearances, it would seem to be a normal facility, with a number of different wings, a reception center and a death row complex. Unlike any other prison in the United States though, it is also home to the Prison View Golf Course. Built mostly by the inmates at the penitentiary, the nine hole course is open to the public, although players must provide personal information in advance so background checks can be carried out. While no prisoners can play on the course, the most trusted are able to work there.
9 San Pedro Prison – Bolivia
San Pedro Prison is unique for a number of reasons. The first being that the facility does not look anything like a normal prison, instead the thousand or more prisoners live in an area that doesn't look so much different to the rest of the city in which it is located. While it does have guards, security posts and tall concrete walls, it is also home to a number of market stalls, restaurants and other amenities you would expect to find. But what makes it even more bizarre is that inmates have to buy the cell they are going to live in for the duration of their sentence. That means the rich criminals are able to live in the more luxurious section of the prison that come with cable TV, pool tables and individual bathrooms, while the less well-off prisoners have to share crowded quarters with others.
8 Bastoy Island Prison - Norway
Experts consider the prison system in Norway to be one of the best in the world. This is because it places far greater emphasis on rehabilitation than on punishment, with prisons designed to teach inmates skills and help them to adjust to a life without crime. Bastoy Island Prison follows these values but also goes even further. The prison is almost entirely self-sustaining. Solar panels provide electricity for all of the facilities, while a prisoner-run farm that contains pigs, cows and chickens provide food and other essentials. It also features an advanced recycling system that ensures absolutely nothing goes to waste, while also containing fully furnished comfortable cells and a range of activities from horse riding to table tennis. It may seem incredibly strange, but it seems like it works, as Norway has the lowest rates of re-offending in all of Europe.
7 Kresty Prison – Russia
Many of the prisons in Russia are overcrowded, partly due to the fact that very few new facilities have been opened in recent history, meaning that the increasing number of prosecuted criminals have to be cramped into existing buildings. The worst, and perhaps one of the most overcrowded in the world, is Kresty Prison. It has an official capacity of just 1,150, but regularly holds more than 12,000 prisoners at the same time. Conditions are so bad that prisoners have to take turns in order to use the small number of available beds and showers, giving prosecutors in Russia the chance to push criminals into confessing or giving over valuable information in exchange for a transfer out of Kresty.
6 Aranjuez Prison – Spain
The Aranjuez Prison in Spain is a world’s first, in that it allows the families of prisoners to live in the complex. Unlike traditional cells in the main part of the prison, some prisoners are allowed to live in specially designed family units that feature more homely environments, such as children’s wallpaper, private bathrooms and toys. It gives parents who are incarcerated the chance to bond with their young children in conditions that will not negatively affect, while also aiding their rehabilitation by teaching them valuable parenting skills so that they can look after their own children when they leave the prison system. Once the kids reach age three, they are considered too old to be raised in such conditions, so they are sent to live with relatives but officials say that the few years they get to spend with their parents is invaluable.
5 Justice Center Leoben - Austria
Built in 2004, the Justice Center Leoben is a combined prison and court complex that has room for just 205 prisoners. It was designed to ensure that those incarcerated in it are treated as human beings and that their dignity is fully respected by the state, even though they have been imprisoned. Often regarded as the most luxurious prison in the world, it has the nickname of “the 5-star hotel” thanks to its ultramodern and comfortable cells. Prisoners in Justice Center Leoben are given far more freedom than in other facilities, with additional space in cells and high-tech kitchens, bathrooms and other amenities.
4 Pirate Prison – Seychelles
The Seychelles is a tiny island that many regard as something of a paradise, thanks to its lush beaches and tropical landscapes. Villas and guest houses in the Seychelles are incredibly expensive, with some rented out for up to $4,500 per night, making it a popular destination for the rich and the famous. However, the small country is also home to a UN-funded prison that operates to prosecute and hold Somali pirates until they can be deported back to their home country. Set up in 2010 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the prison plays a key part in the fight against piracy in the area. Judges and lawyers from countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands work in the complex to prosecute Somali pirates, who are allowed to live freely on the island, playing sports and relaxing in the sun.
3 Cebu Prison – Philippines
You have probably heard of Cebu Prison at some point through YouTube videos or through your friends. Several clips taken from inside the facility have gone viral over the past few years, as it is the prison where inmates are encouraged to take part in huge dance numbers. There have been several popular videos of the prisoners dancing to a variety of different pop hits, but perhaps the most famous is the ‘Thriller’ that sees around 1,500 jumpsuit clad inmates imitating Michael Jackson’s music video. The governor of Cebu Prison began the dance routines as a disciplined way for those in the facility to exercise. The choreographed dances are now done at special events and the prisoners can even earn cash from performing, allowing them to keep fit and get paid at the same time.
2 Sark Prison – Channel Islands
Sark is a small channel island that is owned by the British Crown but governs itself separate from the United Kingdom. Sitting between Jersey and Guernsey, it has no full time police force and just a single voluntary special constable who acts as the law enforcement for the 600 or so residents. It is also home to Sark Prison. The prison itself is tiny and only holds two single jail cells, without room for any windows or amenities other than small beds. Typically, the prison acts only as a holding cell for drunks or tourists who have committed crimes before they can be shipped off the island, although tourists who can’t find any other place to sleep for the night occasionally use it.
1 Fortezza Medicea Prison – Italy
Fortezza Medicea is already a striking prison, simply due to the fact that it is a fortress that was built during the Renaissance in 1474. However, that is not what makes the prison so bizarre. Instead, it is the rehabilitation scheme that the officials who ran the facility created in 2006, to teach the inmates skills and help them to prepare for life on the outside. Situated within the grounds of the complex is a restaurant in which the high-security prisoners prepare and serve fine Italian cuisine for customers. Even though customers have to overcome a variety of difficulties to dine in the restaurant, including eating with plastic cutlery and passing checkpoints and background checks, it is incredibly popular and is generally booked weeks in advance.