From one of Russia’s most secure and feared prisons, to a prison that has been described simply as hell on earth and even the most feared Evin Prison in Iran, welcome to the top 50 most dangerous prisons in the world.
50 – Devil’s Island
Located over 40 meters above sea level on a remote island off the coast of French Guiana, this prison was a dumping ground for those opposing Napoleon III’s coup d’état.
Filled with a variety of various deadly tropical diseases, thanks mainly to limited sanitary systems and a prolific mosquito infestation that wiped out much of the prison population.
France was a harsh place to receive a prison sentence in the late 19th century and those with more than eight years were doomed to remain on the island for the rest of their lives, mainly due to the extreme living conditions.
While Devil’s island was mainly reserved for hardened criminals such as murderers and thieves, some women were also deported to the island in an attempt to keep the population sustainable.
Incredibly, the island was still operating in 1938, however by 1953, it was closed and any remaining prisoners were returned to mainland France, with some even electing to remain on the island.
Visitors can still view the island from boats, however it is strictly off-limits to the public.
49 – Pelican Bay State Prison
Used to house some of the most difficult and dangerous prisoners in California, Pelican Bay opened in 1989 and earned its reputation for having a system that is used to break the psychological well-being of inmates.
One of the few supermax facility’s in the state, the prison sits on 275 acres of land in Del Norte County and is named after a shallow bay on the pacific coast.
The prison is split onto two areas, one being general population and the other being nicknamed the SHU, or special housing unit for short.
Surrounded by an electric fence, this is the most degrading part of the prison with inmates confined to their cells for 22 hours each day and only fed two meals.
No windows exist in cells and prisoners are forced to exercise in a concrete yard known as the dog run.
Many SHU prisoners often make it back into general population, however many of the 3,000 inmates who have served more than eight years in solitary say they still suffer from SHU syndrome.
Of the notable inmates in Pelican Bay, the most famous has to be Robert Walter Scully, a man sentenced to death for fatally shooting a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy in 1995.
48 – McNeil Island
Famous for having a beautiful view of the ocean, unfortunately, any escapees will probably drown in an attempted escape, thanks to the deadly undercurrents of Pitt Passage.
Located north of Anderson Island, this six-mile stretch of land was purchased by the US government in 1870 and was turned into a correctional facility just five years later.
One of America’s last remaining Island prison’s, its noted as being more dangerous for escaping inmates than those locked inside.
Notable inmates include Charles Manson, Robert Stroud and the FBI’s public enemy number one, Alvin Karpis.
47 – Auburn Correctional Facility
Originally built on the site of an Indian Village, this prison is famous for being the site of the first electric chair.
The second state prison built in New York, the prison had a strict manual labour regime and all profits went straight back to the prison.
Prisoners were separated for their crimes into different coloured clothing and is famous for the colonial soldier sitting atop the complex known as “Copper John”.
The strict rehabilitation regime became known as the “Auburn System” and the prison suffered many riots and scandals.
Inmates often sprayed acid in an officer’s faces, gained access to the prison’s armory, set fire to prison shops and many guards were taken hostage.
Racial tensions were often blamed on the prison riots, which claimed the lives of two people and notable inmates for Auburn include Lucchese crime family mob associate Jimmy Burke and J. Frank Hickey, the Post Card Killer.
46 – Folsom State Prison
Another prison in California, this time located in the state capital, Sacramento, Folsom was the first to have electricity in Prisons.
Grossly overpopulated, like many in the system, over ninety-three prisoners were hanged at Folsom between 1895 and 1937.
Many escape attempts were made before a huge granite wall was constructed around the prison in 1920.
The warden was killed in 1920 and an officer several months later with one of the prisons most famous inmates, Glen Stewart Godwin having a successful escape attempt that landed him on the FBI’s ten most wanted.
Two more inmates escaped in 2010 and incredible violence between gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood make this one of the most dangerous prisons in California.
Apart from the dangerous nature of life at the prison, its important to note that a considerable amount of California’s licence plates are made here, thanks to several inmate programs.
45 – Robben Island
First used as a prison in the late 17th century, this prison has famously been used as a leper colony in the 1800’s.
Its most famous resident, Nelson Mandela was forced to perform hard labour at the colony and prisoners were often separated by race, with some black prisoners receiving smaller amounts of food.
Located at the entrance to Table Bay, escape was considered impossible thanks to the vast amount of water surrounding the island with at least one escaped prisoner, the victim of drowning.
Much of the prison still remains to this day after it closed at the end of apartheid and it has become a major tourist attraction for the Cape Town Area.
44 – Hanoi Hilton
Housing mainly political prisoners during the Vietnam War, Hanoi’s most brutal prison gets its name mainly from prisoners who were tortured during their incarceration.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the prisons nickname was “Hells Hole” and it was just that with routing beatings, electrocutions and prisoners were often forced to make false statements about their treatment.
None of the guards at the prison were charged after the war, despite claims of the war crimes that took place there and the prison was re-modelled to look nothing like it was during the war.
The prison was partially demolished during the mid ’90s with many parts being turned into a museum and it is also the site of two 25-storey apartment buildings.
43 – Abu Ghraib
Opened in the 1950’s Abu Ghraib prison is located roughly 32 kilometers west of Baghdad and was one of Iraq’s most dangerous prisons.
Weekly executions, torture and poor living conditions under former dictator, Saddam Hussein led to many political prisoners disappearing at the site.
The prison, which closed in 2014, gained international attention in 2003 when more torture and abuse of inmates was released by the media and labeled the perpetrators as guards for coalition forces.
Several mass graves were discovered at the site, thought to have been created by the Saddam Regime with over 101 prisoners being reported killed in one day alone.
All 2,400 prisoners were removed and transferred to other prisons in 2014 after authorities feared ISIL may take over the complex.
42 – Colditz Castle
Situated high on a hill in the state of Saxony, Germany, Colditz Castle is probably one of the most famous WW2 Prisons.
Made famous by the movie, Escape From Colditz, that followed the real-life escape of sevral prisoners of war, the prison was originally deemed un-escapable.
When the Nazi’s rose to power in 1933, the castle was converted into a prison for political prisoners and later, a high security prisoner-of-war camp for officers who had become security or escape risks.
Prisoners were watched constantly by armed sentries and the walls of the outer courtyard only had two exits.
Surrounded by kilometers of barbed wire, the prison was home to people from many different countries, including Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain and Canada.
After the war, the POW camp was converted by the soviets into a prison for local criminals and later became a nursing home.
41 – Evin Prison
Making headlines in the news recently, Evin Prison has been described as the most dangerous and worst prison in Iran.
Brutal in its nature, Evin is designed to degrade and instill fear into anyone who is incarcerated there.
Prisoners, most of them political from Iran or countries deemed to be enemy state’s, are regularly starved, beaten, raped and tortured.
Serious human rights abuses have also been labelled against the prison which is controlled by both the Iran revolutionary guard and the government.
Located at the foot of the Alborz mountains, some of its more notable inmates have included British-Iranian mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Australian-British academic, Kylie Moore-Gilbert.
40 – Sednaya Prison
Spontaneous executions without fair trials, torture and malnutrition have all been reported at Sednaya Prison, Syria’s brutal military prison camp, located near Damascus.
Between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extrajudicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015 and the prison is one of many in the country to routinely execute prisoners.
Many prisoners were forced to choose between dying themselves or killing one of their own relatives or friends and instances of forced cannibalism have been reported.
Interrogation through torture is commonplace with beatings, electrocution and stress positions all being used to extract forced confessions.
It has been reported that a crematorium was built to cover up the extent of mass murders being carried out at the prison by guards.
39 – Newgate Prison
Built in 1188 by Henry II, this London prison was often rented out to various people by the sheriff’s who owned it.
Often demanding payment from prisoners just to remove their chains, guards were often given an incentive to be cruel to inmates.
Female prisoners and children were also housed at the site and were forced to live in squalor with executions taking place at the site during the 18th century.
The prison, by this time had become London’s main, was decrepit and many prisoners died from dysentery, cholera and other unspeakable diseases.
Notable inmates included religious scholar William Penn and famous pirate, Captain William Kidd.
38 – Sing Sing Correctional Facility
Operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision this maximum security facility gets its name from the Sintsink Native American tribe who sold the land in 1685.
Prisoners held here often bribed prison officers and intimidated other inmates and punishment for breaking a rule on absolute silence included whipping.
The prison was once the site of the original “Old Sparky” electric chair and a number of prisoners met their ends here.
Notable inmates include serial killers John Roche and Norman Roye, career criminal Willie Sutton and notorious hitman Elmer “Trigger” Burke.
37 – Château d’If Island Prison
Located 3.5 km west of the Old Port of Marseille, this massive fortified Island was considered an escape-proof prison thanks to its deadly currents, high ramparts and steep cliffs.
Wealth often indicated how a prisoner was treated during their time locked up here and many poorer inmates were kept in the dungeon areas, often 20-people too one cell.
Edmond Dantès became the first prisoner to ever escape and inspired the novel ” The Count of Monte Cristo” making the prison and island famous in the process.
36 – Brandvlei Prison
Containing a maximum-security unit, a medium-security unit, and a juvenile unit, this South African Prison houses members of the notorious The Numbers Gang.
Hierarchy within the prison is clear and both the guards and wardens only have control of the populations thanks mainly to the gang ranks.
Cell’s are shared with eight inmates locked in each and has three sections with inmates in-charge of life and death within its walls.
35 – La Modelo Prison
Known for its horrific violence, this Columbian prison is located in the city of Bogotá and houses roughly 11,000 inmates.
Separated into two areas, the left-wing rebels populate the north wing and government supporters and paramilitaries populate the south wing.
Many killings take place between these zones and a huge riot took place in April 2000 with over 800 men involved.
The battle lasted for 12 hours and saw 37 people killed, with another 17 inmates declared missing.
Other incidents have seen over 100 prisoners and inmates killed in riots including at least 23 prisoners whom were attacked in 2020 alone.
34 – Gitarama Prison
Suffering from some appalling medical conditions, inmates at Gitarama Prison are stuffed into a space thats only meant to hold around 1,000 people.
This has led to conditions that cost the lives of seven or eight prisoners per day with many resorting to cannibalism just to stay alive.
Gitarama Central prison is revered in Rwanda and for good reason, most who end up here are robbers, rapists, murderers and gang members serving life sentences.
33 – Elmina Castle
One of the principal slave depots in the transatlantic slave trade for more than three centuries, this prison once served its purpose during the most brutal and tragic periods of human existence.
Captives were confined to Elmina’s dungeons where conditions were shocking with no bathrooms and many slaves were branded with red hot tools.
After a three month stay, many of the captives were led onto boats through a door of no return and taken off to their fate.
32 – Mendoza Prison
Another facility subject to massive overcrowding, Mendoza houses 1,600 inmates in a facility that’s built for only for 600 inhabitants.
Conditions are harsh, with many prisoners dying from disease rather than violence and other prisoners have resorted to sewing their mouths shut in protest at living conditions.
Inmates are crowded into cells that measure only 43 square feet in size and most are forced to sleep on the floor without mattresses.
Inadequate medical care and a lack of any proper sewage system, forces inmates to use plastic bags and bottles as their washrooms.
31 – HM Prison Dartmoor
Gaining most of its reputation after the 1920’s, Dartmoor Prison, which is located in the English county of Devon, housed some of Britain’s worst Criminals.
Murderers, gangsters, thieves, spies, and robbers have all been held behind its walls and numerous escape attempts have been made.
Its worst riot, on 24th January 1932, was mainly due to the severe food quality where prisoners thought it had been tampered with and forced the warden and staff to abandon their posts and let the prisoners run amok.
Today, the prison is less dangerous, but it was once a place of great fear and terror for its population.
30 – Black Beach Prison
Located on the island of Bioko, in the capital city of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, Black beach is one of the more infamous prisons in Africa.
Having a reputation for systematically neglecting and brutalising inmates, food rations are said to be meager and medical treatment is usually non-existent.
Built in the 1940s during the time of the Spanish colonial rule, many political opponents were imprisoned and killed in the prison however, common criminals were also imprisoned here.
Notable prisoners and former prisoners include SAS officer Simon Mann and former South African arms dealer Nick du Toit.
29 – Hoeryong Concentration Camp
One of the most brutal prisons in the world and the most remote prison in North Korea, this prison is more well known as penal labour colony No. 22.
The North Korean government always denied the existence of the camp and it has only recently been added to maps.
Founded around 1965, the camp was surrounded by an inner 3300 volt electric fence and an outer barbed wire fence, with traps and hidden nails in-between.
The 1,500 guards and agents were armed with machine guns, hand grenades, clubs, whips, and trained dogs to keep the estimated 50,000 prisoners from escaping.
Most prisoners are held on whole-life sentences and on the guilt-by-association principle within the country.
Most prisoners live in bunk houses holding up to 100 people and suffered from horrendous ailments due to lack of medical care and prisoners were allowed access only to dirty and crowded communal toilets.
Thousands of prisoners died in the camps hard labour mining sections with those trapped due to collapses left to die alone.
28 – HM Prison Maze
Now closed, the infamous Maze prison, located in the former Royal Air Force station of Long Kesh, Northern Island, became famous for housing some of the IRA’s most notorious terrorists.
Many paramilitary-linked prisoners were often granted special treatment in the prison, while guards, mainly protestant’s were often seen carrying out revenge attacks on prisoners.
Provisional IRA prisoners held several hunger strikes within the prison and this contributed to the deaths of nine prisoners within.
Regular escapes occurred from the prison, which had some of the most sophisticated security in Europe and several guards died during one escape.
Today only one H-Block remains from the decommissioned site and it has more recently been turned into a temporary hospital.
27 – Petak Island
Known as the ‘Alcatraz of Russia’, this prison is completely surrounded by the freezing and deadly waters of White Lake.
Prisoners inside are broken in will and have only limited access to basic necessities like lavatories and some do not even have that luxury.
Disease is a particular issue within its walls and most who spend time at the prison are psychologically destroyed.
Half the population reportedly suffer from tuberculosis while terrifying pitch black isolation cells hold those breaking the rules for up to 15 days.
If prisoners try to dig their way out they freeze to death, if they try to run out they are shot by the guards.
In the words of one former head guard, while the prison more safer inside than most, it is hopelessly inescapable.
26 – Fremantle Prison
Now a tourist attraction in Fremantle, Western Australia, this six-hectare site was initially used for convicts transported from Britain.
It was used as a military prison during both world wars and was one of more than 50 military prisons across Australia holding a combined total of more than 12,000 enemy aliens.
Prisoners were often punished with flogging, solitary confinement, and working in chain gangs at gunpoint and later punishments even included a bread-and-water only diet.
At least 43 men and one woman were hanged in the prison between 1888 and 1964 with death row prisoners kept in a concrete-floored cell.
Notable prisoners included Serial Killer David Birnie, former lead singer of rock band AC/DC, Don Scott and Irish Nationalist James Wilson.
25 – Challapalca Prison
One of the three maximum security prisons located in Peru, its location located at 4800 meters above sea level, makes this prison almost un-escapable.
Located on the Andes mountain range towards the border between Peru and Bolivia, the prison covers a land area of 12,000 square meters.
Many offenders are victims of physical and psychological abuse, are often kept in deplorable hygienic conditions, suffer extreme cold temperatures and rarely see daylight.
None of the inmates have access to technology and rarely receive visits due to the prisons remote location.
Many of Peru’s most dangerous prisoners are housed here and most have to be held in solitary confinement to stop them planning riots.
24 – San Pedro Prison
Currently thought to be the largest prison in La Paz, Bolivia, this massive complex is more well known as its own city within a city, thanks mainly in-part to inmates owning accommodation, having jobs and even living with family members.
With 3,000 inmates currently serving time, the prison is five times over its intended capacity and prison rules are enforced by specific leaders within the society, mainly through violence.
Cocaine is rife within the population and is often sold to visitors for income to buy food and cells and violence is often handed down severely to those who dont pay up.
No guards exist within the prison, making it especially dangerous and all guards give no regard for what happens to anyone on the inside.
Guards are commonly bribed by prisoners to assist in the trafficking of drugs and sometimes guards must be bribed for inmates to even receive a trial.
23 – The Scorpion Prison
Officially named Tora Prison 992 Maximum-Security, this supermax prison in Helwan, Egypt, sits just south of Cairo.
Used mainly for political prisoners and opponents of the Egyptian government, it holds many Muslim Brotherhood and April 6 Youth Movement leaders among its inmate ranks.
Inmates often suffer from ill-treatment and shortages of food and the prison is surrounded by a wall of seven meters and armoured gates.
The prison was designed so that the sunlight never enters any of its cells during the day and many inmates have developed diseases due to the lack of vitamin D.
During summer, temperatures within rise to unbearable levels, while in winter it turns into a freezer thanks to the lack of any air conditioning, so if you dont die from being stabbed or assaulted, the freezing cold or leathal heat will get you.
22 – Lhasa Prison No. 1
Currently the largest prison in Tibet, China, located in Lhasa, it was originally a military garrison until it was converted into a prison after the 1959 Tibetan Uprising.
Gaining a notorious reputation, the prison is feared by Tibetans for its strong management and brutality.
Dungeons within the prison exist mainly for torture of inmates and most are made up of freedom activists that have been incarcerated and some have even lost their lives.
Twenty seven deaths and sentence extensions of 47 political prisoners have been recorded since 1987, with the prison administered by Chinese authorities.
21 – Nairobi Prison
Originally named “Kamiti Downs”, this central Kenyan prison held many political prisoners during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Infamous for its poor conditions and inhumane treatment, no reliable water supply exists within its walls and inmates working in the “industry” section are paid only 10 cents.
Many staying in the “G Block” have reported a particularly brutal lifestyle thanks to frequent cholera outbreaks.
Major overcrowding exists at the prison, with 1400 prisoner spaces now housing over 3600 in decrepit living conditions.
20 – Guantanamo Bay
Feared and dreaded by anyone unlucky enough to be detained there, this military style prison was made famous for housing some of the most dangerous terrorists after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees was rampant within the facility and medical professionals were ordered to ignore ethical standards during involvement in abusive interrogation.
Hunger striking prisoners were often force-fed and prisoners were deemed not to fall under the Geneva Convention.
Sexual degradation, forced drugging, and religious persecution were all reported techniques used at the prison with beatings and sleep deprivation a continuous threat for inmates.
Almost no reports of danger came from inmate to inmate contact and instead from guard-inmate contact.
19 – Kaliti Prison
Commonly referred to as more of a gulag, thanks to its decrepit and deplorable conditions, the location of this prison sits 11 km south of central Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Sheet-metal shacks arranged in a dense maze form most of the interior and there are 8 zones within the complex.
Hundreds of inmates are held in single, poorly ventilated cells and many suffer from tuberculosis, fleas and lice thanks to poor sanitation.
Water for both drinking and washing is insufficient and any prisoner who complains about conditions at the prison is susceptible to torture or abuse from the guards.
The prison has housed many Ethiopian journalists and political prisoners over the years.
18 – Cereso Number 3 State Prison
Another one of Mexico’s most dangerous prison’s this Prison is known to house many of the country’s gang leaders.
Due to the prisons gang-style culture, violence occurs on an almost daily basis with various attacks also coming from outside its walls.
On 1st January 2023, a massive riot began inside the prison and coupled with a gang attack from outside the prison using armored vehicles, ten guards, seven inmates, and two gunmen were killed.
Regular shootouts, terrible living conditions and inmates living in fear of their every move combine to make this one of the most dangerous prisons in Mexico.
17 – Arthur Road Jail
Built in 1926, this is Mumbai’s largest and oldest central prison that is famed for its run-down prison conditions and obvious human rights infringements.
No prisoner has ever been known to escape and there have also been several attempts to break in (why would you ever do this) but this has also been unsuccessful.
Built to be an impenetrable fortress, it stands on 2-acres of land, is officially named Mumbai Central Prison.
Many gangs roam the prison and poor cleanliness has led to outbreaks of many diseases such as cholera and other nasty viruses.
16 – Melekhovo IK-6
Infamous for its brutal conditions and reported systematic abuse of inmates, this prison, located in Russia has been described as the torture conveyor belt.
Prisoners are regularly beaten and raped at the hands of both correctional officers and fellow prisoners whom are tasked with intimidating new inmates.
One famous inmate moved to the prison recently includes Putin critic Alexey Navalny after his opposition movement was labeled as “extremist”.
15 – Bogota District Prison
Nicknamed “La Modelo”, 11,000 inmates are incarcerated within this violent prisons walls, with vicious fights and stabbings taking place on a daily basis.
Filled with hitmen, murderers, drug traffickers and rapists, the prison has appeared on several television programs.
The guards in the prison do not carry rifles inside the walls and instead leave the prisoners, many of whom are violent drug addicts to create their own rules.
Prisoners were involved in a mass riot in 2020 due to poor health conditions and this resulted in the deaths of 23 inmates.
Inmates often set fire to their mattresses in an attempt to burn the jail down and in 2016, the remains of over 100 prisoners and visitors were found in tunnels under the jail.
14 – Alcuaz Prison
Said to be one of the most violent prisons in the world for riots, over 140 inmates died in gang warfare during 2017 alone.
Almost all the inmates killed in the riots were decapitated, and feuds are often between some of Brazil’s most powerful drug gangs.
Guns, knives, cellphones and just about anything else can be smuggled through tunnels under the prison and only a dozen guards are responsible for over 1,500 inmates.
Nicknamed “Swiss cheese”, Alcacuz is among the worst prisons in Brazil and the state has albeit lost complete control within its walls.
Authorities acknowledge that Alcacuz is now beyond saving and stretchers, lowered from outside the prison often collect the wounded or dead.
13 – Chikurubi Prison
Putting a foot wrong in Zimbabwe can land you in prison very quickly and there is nowhere worse to end up than Chikurubi Prison on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Harare.
Known for its overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, cells typically measure 30 feet by 13 feet, and as many as 25 prisoners are housed in each cell.
The prison has held a number of notable people over the years including political prisoners, many of whom are held without trial or release date.
Security is particularly tight and only two escapees have ever been recorded.
12 – Black Dolphin Prison
Located near to the border with Kazakhstan, lies one of the oldest prisons in Russia, named penal colony No. 6 of the Federal Penitentiary Service, or as its better known, Black Dolphin.
Arriving inmates are blindfolded to avoid seeing planning and preparation areas and the same happens whenever they are transported between buildings.
Inmates are also bent over in a stress position while being moved and are handcuffed and shackled at all times when outside their cells.
Inmates, whom are 700 of the worst in Russia, are checked in their cells every 15 minutes and must answer yes sir to all commands.
Cells have a set of three steel doors, force inmates to exercise in large cages for 90 minutes per day and cannot sit or rest on their bunks from dawn until dusk.
No one has ever escaped Black Dolphin and those who enter its walls are condemned to die within them.
11 – Terrorist Confinement Center
This new prison, located in El Salvador has massive 100-man cells that include just 80 beds, two showers and two toilets.
Described as the largest prison in the world, over 40,000 inmates can be held here with all inmates held under a strict regime that bans all technology and contact with the outside world.
Featuring seven different layers of security, these include nineteen watchtowers, electric fence, huge anti-climb wall, solid-steel cells and several patrol zones.
Designed to hold the many thousands of gang members that have terrorised El Salvador over the years, and with many if not, most of the same gang members all in one place, this makes it one of El Salvador’s most dangerous prisons.
10 – San Quentin Prison
One of the only American prisons on the list, San Quentin Prison, located north of San Francisco houses the state’s only death row for male inmates.
The prison is old, antiquated, dirty, poorly staffed, poorly maintained with inadequate medical space and is severely overcrowded, sometimes being called worse than many African prisons.
Between 1996 and 2006, eleven people were executed at San Quentin by lethal injection and the state has also carried out three state executions.
Numerous escape attempts have been recorded with most inmates ending up shot by guards.
Notable inmates include “vampire killer” Richard Chase, serial killer Anthony McKnight and Charles Manson.
9 – Bang Kwang Prison
Located about 11 km north of Bangkok, Thailand, this prison handles death row and long-sentence prisoners but is also the main penitentiary for many foreign prisoners.
Conditions within the prison are harsh and all prisoners are required to wear leg irons for the first three months of their sentences.
Nicknamed “Big Tiger” by the Thai’s, the prison holds about about 6,000 inmates in total and has been known as The Bangkok Hilton by many of the foreign prisoners it holds.
Conditions inside have been known to cause some inmates to loose their sanity and before a change in 2013, death row inmates were forced to weld their shackles on.
8 – Rikers Island Prison
Famous as New York City’s toughest jail, Rikers is situated on its own island in the East River and is also the city’s largest jail, with places for up to 15,000 detainees.
The complex is actually made up of ten different jails and holds mainly local offenders who are awaiting trial, serving sentences of one year or less, or are temporarily placed there pending transfer to another facility.
Rikers has a reputation for violence, both abuse and neglect of inmates, often resulting in serious injuries.
Several gangs have been born in the jails at Rikers and these include the United Blood Nation or East Coast Bloods as it is better known.
Viral outbreaks, staffing shortages, and exacerbated mental health crises among detainees have all contributed to 15 reported deaths of inmates since 2021.
7 – Alcatraz Prison Island
One of the most famous prisons in American History, Alcatraz was originally nicknamed “The Rock” and was practically unescapable with many suggesting it never had a successful escape.
Others state that a few lucky inmates managed to make it accross the freezing currents of the San Francisco Harbor and the prison, albeit for a short time was the toughest and most secure in the country.
A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts with two men trying twice and 23 were caught, six were shot and killed during their escape, two drowned, and five are listed as “missing and presumed drowned”
6 – ADX Florence Prisons
Considered to be the most secure prison in the United States, ADX Florence has earned its nickname as “The Alcatraz of the Rockies”.
The prison ADMAX holds only the most dangerous criminals in America and those serving life or near-life sentences and including terrorists, gang leaders and political prisoners.
In the 29 years it has been open, an escape has never even been attempted and prisoners are not allowed to come into contact with other prisoners during the first three years of their stay.
Recreation time is spent in a concrete pit with an open-covered roof that allows inmates to see the sky only and this is the same for the cell windows.
Inmates are kept in their cells 23 hours a day for the first year and cells are also soundproof to avoid any contact at all between prisoners.
Keys used to unlock doors are covered in a steel shield once used and a multitude of motion detectors, cameras, 12-foot tall razor wire fences, pressure pads, laser beams and heavily armed officers with patrol dogs are based on the perimeter.
The prison has its own prison within ADX, named Range 13, a special four-cell wing within the Special Housing Unit for inmates who need the tightest control
5 – Pretoria Local Prison
Part of three separate clusters of prisons, Pretoria Central Prison was known as one of the more difficult to escape from thanks in-part to both its design and regime.
White political prisoners were held in the maximum security section of the prison behind a series of locked doors, each requiring a different key.
Located in an L-Shaped building, daily routines include mopping floors and cleaning toilets with guards constantly watching the interior sections during the daylight hours.
Guards let their guard down at night when all prisoners were confined to their cells and three inmates took advantage of this, crafting keys and escaping to freedom.
Many South African Freedom fighters never escaped the prison and died during their sentences.
4 – Diyabakir Prison
Located in South Eastern Turkey, Diyarbakır Prison was established in 1980 as an E-type prison by the Turkish Ministry of Justice.
Constantly overcrowded, the prison suffered from a period of barbarity in the mid-1980s, many prisoners were exposed to horrific acts of systematic torture and execution.
Most inmates were not allowed to speak in another language than Turkish and inmates were obliged to memorize the Turkish national anthem and other Turkish nationalist songs.
On 24th September 1996, 10 inmates were killed and another 46 prisoners were wounded when gendarmes and prison warders stormed the prison after an apparent uprising.
3 – La Sabaneta Prison
Another notoriously violent prison in the city of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Sabaneta Prison was severely overcrowded, with inadequate access to medical care, food, and clean water.
Violence among prisoners was common with gangs ruling the prison with an iron fist and it continued like this until its closure in 2013.
Occasional raids on the prison by the government often led to massive amounts of weapons and drugs, and a riot in 1994 claimed the lives of up to 150 inmates.
One raid, conducted by government contracted officers, discovered a collection of prison animals being kept in a zoo with a few endangered species also present.
2 – Tadmor Prison
Earning its nickname as the kingdom of madness and death, this terrifying prison was once located in the Syrian Desert, 200 km Northeast of Damascus.
During one mass riot, Defense Brigades of the Commando Forces slaughtered roughly a thousand inmates and the death toll is still unknown to this day.
Prison guards use brutal methods to torture and make the inmates suffer and summary executions and harsh conditions are the usual way prisoners here met their end.
This prison was blown up in May 2015 putting a end to its infamous reign of terror.
1 – Carandiru Penitentiary
Officially known as the São Paulo House of Detention, this prison was South America’s largest penitentiary during its operation between 1956 to 2002, holding over 8,000 inmates.
The site of the Carandiru massacre, military police stormed the penitentiary following a prison riot which left 111 prisoners dead.
The entire inside of the prison was controlled by the inmates
Escape was virtually impossible thanks mainly to the large number of guards on the perimeter and many hundreds are thought to have died through an AIDS epidemic which swept through the prison from 1989 to 2001.
The prison was demolished on December 8, 2002, however one prison block was left intact and turned into a museum that can be visited by the public and today, a cultural, recreational and sports complex is located on the site.
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