Top 10 Most Dangerous Prisons In The United States

Brace yourselves as we take you on a journey through some of the most dangerous prisons in the United States.

places to visit in New York City

10 – San Quentin State Prison, California

San Quentin makes our list due to its notorious history and high-security measures including multiple levels of security checks, surveillance cameras, and strategically placed guard towers.

Established in 1852, it’s California’s oldest prison and home to some of the most violent offenders in the state.

Famous inmates include Richard Ramirez, Infamously known as the “Night Stalker,” who terrorized Southern California in the mid-1980s and Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

Security features include Elevated guard towers, Advanced CCTV cameras, motion sensors, Electronic monitoring systems and phone call monitoring.

The prison also houses California’s death chamber, with all death-row inmates held on site, look out for a top 10 video on San Quentin.

9 – Rikers Island, New York

Situated in the East River, Rikers Island has gained notoriety for its violence and corruption with scandals involving staff misconduct, smuggling, and abuse having tarnished its reputation.

Despite ongoing efforts to reform, it remains a challenging environment for both inmates and staff with instances of bribery and illicit activities continue to raise concerns.

Rikers is a feared institution within the Ney York State criminal population, with overcrowding and tense living conditions a constant problem.

The island actually consists of ten jails and can accommodate up to 15,000 detainees at once.

There have also been a considerable number of Detainee deaths at Rikers, with 15 reported in 2021 alone.

8 – Angola Prison, Louisiana

Known as “The Farm,” Angola has a reputation for its large size and tough living conditions that include labour work on farms.

It’s home to a significant number of black inmates serving life sentences, contributing to its intense atmosphere.

Standing as one of America’s most perilous correctional facilities, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, as it is officially named, is vast in size, covering 18,000-acres.

The dangers lurking within Angola’s formidable walls are real, with conditions inside described as cruel and degrading before you even get to the dangerous inmates.

Some of the most dangerous individuals in Louisiana are housed at Angola, including mass murderer Nathaniel Code and French Quarter Killer, Warren Harris.

7 – ADX Florence, Colorado

The Administrative Maximum Facility, or ADX Florence, is the highest-security prison in the federal system.

Housing some of the most dangerous criminals, it’s designed to minimize human contact and prevent escapes.

Nicknamed the Alcatraz of the Rockies, no escapes have ever succeeded from inside its walls.

Security features at SuperMax Colorado include motion detectors, restricted movement, remotely controlled doors, communication monitoring, and the whole facility is sunk into the ground.

Inmates at ADX Florence are typically held in solitary confinement, minimizing contact with other inmates to prevent collaboration or violence.

The facility is designed to house the most dangerous inmates in the United States including murderers, mafia crime figures, drug lords and terrorists.

Infamous prisoners include drug lord El Chapo Guzeman, shoe bomber Richard Reid and 9/11 planner Zacarias Moussaoui.

6 – Pelican Bay State Prison, California

Located in Crescent City, Pelican Bay is known for its high-security housing units, including the notorious Security Housing Unit or SHU for short.

The prison has faced criticism for its use of solitary confinement within its security housing unit, something that is often utilized to control prison gangs.

Due to its high-security nature, Pelican Bay often holds inmates who have exhibited behavioural issues or pose a threat to the safety of other inmates or staff.

Pelican Bay has experienced incidents of violence, including riots and conflicts among inmates, some of whom are California’s most dangerous.

Famous inmates include San Quentin State Prison escapee Hugo Pinell and, the now dead, but infamous, Charles Manson.

5 – USP Marion, Illinois

Once dubbed “the Alcatraz of the Midwest,” USP Marion was a maximum-security prison notorious for its harsh conditions and history of violence.

It operated as a control unit until 2006 and was the subject of several high-profile escape attempts with one involving five inmates used an illegal homemade electronic device to open the front gates of the prison.

Two escape attempts occurred in 1978 involving the same inmate, Garrett Brock Trapnell.

The last escape from the maximum-security prison area was on February 14, 1979, when Lawrence Caldwell, Albert Garza and Howard Zumberge climbed both exterior fences in a dense fog.

USP Marion went into “permanent lockdown” with all inmates locked in their cells after two officers, Clutts and Hoffmann were murdered by inmates.

Notable inmates included Aryan Brotherhood prison gang leader Thomas Silverstein and former boss of the Bruno Crime Family, Nicodemo Scarfo.

4 – Attica Correctional Facility, New York

Infamous for the 1971 Attica Prison riot, this facility has a dark history. Overcrowding, inadequate living conditions, and tension between inmates and guards make Attica one of the most dangerous prisons in the country.

Attica Correctional Facility opened in 1931 and was initially designed to accommodate around 1,200 inmates.

Attica has housed various notorious inmates, including David Berkowitz and Jimmy Caci, contributing to its dangerous reputation.

On September 9, 1971, inmates at Attica rebelled, protesting against inhumane conditions, overcrowding, and inadequate medical care.

Despite negotiations, the state’s response was slow and inadequate and, on September 13, 1971, Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered armed state troopers to regain control of the prison.

Law enforcement used tear gas and live ammunition, resulting in the deaths of both inmates and hostages making it one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the U.S. penal system.

3 – Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York

With a history dating back to 1826, Sing Sing has earned its place on our list due to its tough reputation, violent incidents and harsh living conditions contribute to its dangerous environment.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility has a long and storied history, Its strict security measures are designed to prevent escapes and violence since it was established in 1826.

Sing Sing houses a diverse population of inmates, including those convicted of violent crimes, drug offenses, and other serious offenses.

Sing Sing gained notoriety for carrying out executions using the electric chair with the prison conducted numerous executions between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century.

The electric chair at Sing Sing was known as “Old Sparky.” and notable inmates included hitmen, Frank Abbandando and Harry Maine.

One famous inmate, Charles Becker was a NYPD Lieutenant convicted for the murder of Herman Rosenthal and executed at Sing Sing on July 30, 1915.

2 – Florence Correctional Complex, Arizona

Known for its high-security level and housing some of the most dangerous federal inmates, Florence Correctional Complex is a formidable institution.

This prison is managed by the Arizona Department of Corrections and houses individuals who have been convicted of various offenses.

On May 29, 2021, more than a dozen inmates trapped a pair of corrections officers inside a caged stairwell at the prison.

Current inmates include murderer and possible serial killer Trent Benson, serial killer Samuel Dieteman and Serial Killer Cory Morris.

The prison also housed the states death chamber where prisoners such as serial/spree killer Donald Harding were executed in the State Gas Chamber or Lethal Injection.

The prison houses the ASPC Central Unit, housing only the most dangerous level 5 custody prisoners and has has an inmate capacity of 3,946.

1 – Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, California

Taking the top spot is the infamous Alcatraz, the island prison that housed some of America’s most notorious criminals.

While no longer operational, its history of brutality, isolation, and high-security measures make it the most iconic dangerous prison in U.S. history.

Notable prisoners held at one of America’s most dangerous and secure prisons of its time included Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and its most famous prisoner, Al Capone.

The prison gained a reputation as one of the toughest prisons in the United States and was deemed un-escapable by the Bureau of Prisons in 1934.

Fourteen known escape attempts left most of the 36 inmates dead or re-captured and even to this day, it has not been proven whether anyone ever made it off the island alive.

Surrounded by the frigid waters of San Francisco bay, the major shipping channel was thought un-survivable to any human attempting escape.

Inmates Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin executed their famous escape on June 1963 at the height of summer, yet their fate remains a mystery.

While escaping came with its own dangers, living in the island prison was even worse with frequent stabbings, guard brutality and various attacks on a daily basis.

Inmates often managed to obtain weapons and subdued several correctional officers with the U.S. Marines once called in to assist a riot.

Incidents on Alcatraz were relatively low compared to other prisons, and the facility’s closure in 1963 was influenced by factors such as the high operating costs rather than an unusually high level of violence.

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