Prisons are intended to serve as both a punishment and a rehabilitation facility for criminal perpetrators. Prison is an ordeal that most of us will never endure. Many people lose years of their lives when they serve time.
While the original intention of a prison sentence may have been to rehabilitate, criminals often use these institutions to hone their skills. Generally speaking, their unlawful behavior continues or even expands and their criminal operations go undeterred.
Hollywood may glamorize prison in films such as Escape from Alcatraz, Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile. The reality of life behind bars is vastly different than what is shown in high-production films.
The horrifying reality is that riots, murder, and torture can be commonplace and, in many cases, normalized. It can even be done just for fun, as sadism and depravity can be part of the guards’ mindsets.
With this backdrop in mind, let’s get started on our list of the 25 Most Dangerous Prisons in the World
Kenya, Nairobi Prison
Nairobi Prison, dubbed Kenya’s “worst prison,” was founded in 1911. It was initially designed to house no more than 800 prisoners. However, the Kenyan government discovered that the facility could accommodate over 4,000 prisoners without investing in any structural expansion. According to one news report, up to 12 inmates can be found in every “cage” initially meant for 3 people. Not only that, but violence, systemic abuse, and disease are all widespread within its walls.
Venezuela, Maracaibo National Prison
Venezuela’s prisons have a well-deserved bad reputation, with the Maracaibo National Prison unquestionably ranked among the worst in the world. It also happens to be one of the most violent and ungoverned places in which a person can find himself. Over 3,700 inmates are crammed into a facility constructed initially for only 700 prisoners. The issues at this facility underscore their lack of funding, while chronic staff shortages are another major problem. Because the guard-to-inmate ratio is 1:50, any attempt to enforce the order is virtually impossible. It’s a hellhole run by sadistic and bloodthirsty gangs.
UK, HMP Belmarsh
Belmarsh is one of England’s three maximum-security facilities. A wide range of men has been imprisoned at Belmarsh, with terrorism convictions being the most common. Despite the fact that the prison provides inmates with facilities such as workshops, education, and even fitness programs, it is still a place rife with prison violence. According to one report, the level of violence is increasing year after year, with at least 100 attacks on inmates and guards at the present time.
India, Mumbai Central Prison
Arthur Road Jail, also known as Mumbai Central Prison, is Mumbai’s most populous and oldest prison, and it is notorious for being underfunded and overpopulated. Gang wars that have resulted in inmate injuries and even deaths have become commonplace behind its walls. The cruel and barbaric conditions in the correctional facility, which was initially designed to house 800 inmates but now houses over 2000, have added to the underlying motives of its inmates to engage in violent behavior, which is not surprising given that 57% of inmates suffer from some form of mental illness. Every year, at least 180 unnatural deaths occur at the prison.
Peru, Lurigancho Prison
Due to rampant corruption, tuberculosis, drug dependence, and appalling state management, the Lurigancho prison in Lima, Peru, gained a reputation for being one of the world’s most dangerous prisons. Inmates here spend their days experimenting with whatever technologies they can find via the black market, cockfighting, and drugs. It’s one of South America’s most brutal prisons due to the lack of guards – in fact, there’s one guard for every 100 inmates. The prison was designed to house only 2,500 inmates, but it now houses over 11,500 inmates behind its crumbling and dingy walls.
El Salvador, Ciudad Barrios Prison
The Ciudad Barrios Prison in El Salvador exclusively houses members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, better known as the MS-13. Even the appointed guards are afraid to enter this prison because of how dangerous it is due to the brutality of these gang members. The prison has a prisoner-guard ratio of 50 to 1. Inside, the prisoners have fully embraced the prison as their own, started their own healthcare centers and even bakeries, are heavily tattooed with gang symbols, and are constantly involved in fights to the death.
Russia, Butyrka Prison
Russia is not known for being sympathetic to criminals; this prison facility, which has been accused of several human rights violations, is a classic example. Butyrka Prison is the largest of Moscow’s remand prisons in central Moscow. The prison became notorious for its brutality and the execution of thousands of political prisoners. The prison’s name is also associated with a variety of health concerns, including tuberculosis and HIV, not to mention overcrowding in cells, with 100 inmates typically packed into cells meant for no more than ten.
Columbia, La Modelo
You can find La Modelo in Bogota, Columbia. The prison is divided into two wings: the north wing houses left-wing insurgents, and the south wing houses right-wing government supporters. In the space between the two wings, a battlefield has formed, where untold acts of violence take place. It should be noted that although inmates have access to firearms and explosives, no weapons are carried by prison staff. Fearing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, a riot broke out within the prison in March 2020. The ensuing riot resulted in 23 deaths and 83 injuries.
Turkey, Diyarbakir Prison
Diyarbakir Prison opened in the 1980s in Turkey’s southeastern region and is every prisoner’s “hell on earth.” The inmates’ living conditions are alarming and dehumanizing. Prisoners have attempted hunger strikes to garner attention and demonstrate their desperate need for assistance; some even set themselves on fire! The violent conditions within Diyarbakir are ascribed to the guards, not the prisoners. In the first three years of the 1980s, 34 inmates died due to unnatural causes, most notably suicide and torture. In 1996, an incident was reported that led to the deaths of ten inmates and the injuries of 23 others at the hands of the guards.
Venezuela, El Rodeo Prison
This facility, dubbed “The Fifth Circle of Hell,” plays host to no less than 50,000 of Venezuela’s most dangerous criminals. Gang wars are prevalent, and prison guards are entirely powerless and unable to prevent the inmates’ cruel and barbaric living conditions. Brutality, rapes, and murders are a daily occurrence within the prison’s walls. The prison administration also has a limited amount of power. At every instance of support by the nation’s armed forces, the gang wars merely escalated, leading everyone to believe that any reform is a lost cause.
Thailand, Bang Kwang Prison
Only a handful of prisons in the world feature the harsh conditions that can be found at Bang Kwang Central Prison, located on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. Though its nickname is “The Bangkok Hilton,” the name does not refer to the facility but rather the multiple nationalities of its inmates. The prison is notorious for torturing its prisoners regularly. Prisoners are packed into small cells, and inmates on death row are frequently hauled off to their execution with as little as two hours notice.
Argentina, Mendoza Prison
Inhumane conditions, torture, and death are synonymous with the Mendoza prison. The prison houses over 1,600 violent offenders in a facility designed for 600 people. Amnesty International condemned the facility’s conditions in 2005. They claimed that inmates who have not yet been sentenced or who are tried might emerge worse off than when they entered the prison walls. Inmates and their families are also vulnerable to abuse by prison guards, who are notorious for abusing them.
Syria, Tadmor Military Prison
Tadmor Prison had a track record for being among the world’s most tyrannical detention facilities. Faraj Beraqdar, a poet and political detainee at the facility described it as a “kingdom of madness and death.” Following an attempted assassination, president Hafez-al-Assad directed soldiers to kill every prisoner within sight. The detainees were dragged to death or killed with an ax after being tortured and beaten. The exact number of those massacred remains unknown to this day, but it is expected to exceed 1000, all of whom were Muslim Brotherhood members. The prison was blown up by the Islamic State in 2015.
USA, San Quentin State Prison
The oldest prison in California, San Quentin, has held a startling number of serial murders and rapists. It is also the only prison in California with a gas chamber and death row. It has been the site of innumerable counts of interracial gang-controlled conflict, and its future stability in this regard appears bleak. And it’s not just the inmates that are at risk of violence. Hundreds of inmates have been maimed and killed in racial attacks over the years leading everyone to believe that regardless of how many guards are present, this prison will continue to be among the most dangerous in the world.
USA, Attica Correctional Facility
Since its inception in the 1930s, Attica’s maximum-security prison has been the site of constant violent conflicts. It has a history of riots, the worst of which occurred in 1971 when approximately 2220 inmates held 42 staff members captive during a hostage situation. The riot lasted four days, but 39 people, including ten prison guards, lost their lives. Some of New York’s most dangerous criminals are housed in the prison, which has a population of 2,000 people today.
Brazil, Anísio Jobim (Compaj) Penitentiary
Ansio Jobim Penitentiary is a Brazilian prison that witnessed one of the deadliest and most brutal prison riots in history. The inmates did not riot because of poor living conditions; and officers were not the target; instead rival gang members were. On January 1, 2017, a riot broke out between rival factions, The Family of the North and The First Command of the Capital. During the riot, 56 inmates were tortured and decapitated.
Tbilisi, Georgia Gldani Prison
Cruelty and torture were once extremely common at Gldani Prison. On September 18, 2012, Georgian national TV channels aired video footage of inmates being tortured, raped, and beaten by prison guards. In response to the global broadcast, Georgian students and citizens organized protests. Orders were issued to prosecute and convict guards who were found to be torturing and abusing human rights. As a result, the government declared a “zero tolerance” policy for human rights abuses.
South Africa, Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison
Pollsmoor Prison is the largest prison in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. The facility was initially designed to house approximately 3,900 inmates, but nowadays, it houses nearly 9,000. The prison is notorious for having almost no management. In fact, it is almost entirely run by Cape Town gangs known as “numbers,” who have brought their own set of rules with them, including stages of retaliation for those who step out of line. Diseases spread quickly due to overcrowding, and some inmates have been awaiting trial for years with no results.
Russia, Vladimir Central Prison
Vladimir Central Prison is Russia’s largest maximum-security prison, with inmates serving sentences ranging from ten years to life in prison. The prison has a capacity of 1220 inmates, but it is currently overcrowded and infested with diseases. Torture is routine at Vladimir Central. Prisoners are dragged from their cells, forced to put their hands up against a wall, whipped, and often beaten to death.
North Korea, Camp 14 Kacheon
According to U.S. State Department reports, North Korea’s Camp 14 was built in 1959, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Pyongyang. The Camp 14 political prison has a capacity of 15,000 prisoners. As a result, they are imprisoned for life for being “enemies of the state.” During their imprisonment, they are starved and forced to work as slaves in textiles, agriculture, and mining. As part of its “three generations of punishment” policy, Camp 14 holds many prisoners just because they are related to someone accused of committing a crime. They will likely die there without ever doing anything wrong.
Carandiru Penitentiary was closed due to a massacre that occurred in 2002 and has since been the subject of numerous films and studies. The facility was a hotbed of torture and suffering during the time it was operational. According to sources, untold prisoners died every year due to unnatural causes, while over 100 prisoners were killed in the 2002 massacre alone. The event allowed the rest of the world to witness the institution’s terrible brutality. At least one out of every five inmates had HIV, and some claim that convicts were subjected to surgery without anesthesia.
North Korea, Camp 22
Camp 22 was North Korea’s prime site for human rights violations, experimentation, and sadistic abuse. The North Korean government has consistently denied its existence, but its location was confirmed by supersleuths using Google Earth. The conditions at Camp 22 were among the worst ever seen, with over 1500-2000 people dying yearly from malnutrition, most of whom were children. Every method of torture imaginable was commonplace, including hanging, kneeling, and all forms of water torture. Inexperienced medical officers often performed surgical procedures on inmates, in most cases, killing them.
Russia, Black Dolphin Prison
Some of Russia’s most vicious criminals are incarcerated in Black Dolphin Prison, including rapists, pedophiles, mass murderers, terrorists, and cannibals. Inmates are moved between buildings by guards bending over, grabbing their handcuffed hands behind their backs, and blindfolding them to prevent them from concocting escape plans or attacking prison staff. Inmates are only allowed 90 minutes of exercise per day and are not permitted to lie down or even sit on their bunks during their 16-hour rotations. Its 700 residents have killed 3500 people, with an average of 5 people per inmate.
Tibet, Drapchi Prison
Drapchi Prison is the largest prison in Tibet, China. It is known for its strict management, and reports of brutality are widespread. Prisoners are not even allowed to look at guards in what they could perceive as an “unfavora,ble manner,” or they risk being tortured and killed. The facility was initially a military garrison,, but after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, it was transformed into the current prison. Inmates who participate in any form of protest are tortured and beaten to death, resulting in it becoming Tibet’s most feared prison.
Rwanda, Gitarama Central Prison
Gitarama prison in Rwanda has long been a source of concern for human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Gitarama’s overcrowding has resulted in deplorable conditions, with thousands of inmates crammed into a space designed for only a few hundred people. In 1995, over 1,000 prisoners were believed to have died inside the jail, with further reports of putrefying and festering body parts due to a lack of primary healthcare and unsanitary conditions. To make matters worse, inmates frequently resort to cannibalism just to survive due to a lack of food.