There are thousands of prisons around the world harboring millions of incarcerated inmates. Prison culture differs from country to country and even prison to prison, with many people getting their idea of what prison is like by watching shows like ‘Orange is the New Black’. This isn’t entirely reminiscent of prisons around the world, but as demonstrated by the show’s popularity, many people are extremely interested in what prison is really like.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most notorious prisons in the world – just in case you were wondering what life is like on the other side of the bars.
1. La Sabaneta Prison, Venezuela
La Sabaneta Prison, also known as Maracaibo National Prison, is located in the city of Maracaibo in Venezuela and was opened in 1958. It was eventually closed in 2013 and is being transformed into a museum because of its notorious past. Originally built for a capacity of 700 inmates, at the time of its closing, it had more than 500% capacity with 3,700 prisoners housed there.
The prison was run by gangs and as such, violence was rife. In 1994 a fire broke out and in the riot that ensued, more than 150 people died. The guards were massively outnumbered, at times only eight guards were on patrol in the entire prison. Occasionally the National Guard would conduct raids, often finding huge amounts of weaponry and drugs and, in one instance, a collection of exotic jungle animals.
In 2013, 69 inmates were killed, 16 of whom died in a riot that eventually lead to the closure of the prison.
2. Tadmur Prison, Syria
Few prisons have garnered as negative a reputation as Tadmur Prison in Palmyra, Syria. When IS took control of Palmyra in 2015, they blew the prison up. Prior to its demolition, Tadmur was a name that struck fear the heart of Syrians everywhere. It was described by Amnesty International as a place of “despair, torture and degrading treatment” in 2001.
The prison housed a lot of political prisoners, many of whom joined the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Members belonging to this group outside the prison plotted to assassinate the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad in 1980. The attempt failed. Following it, Assad’s brother, Rifaat al-Assad instructed members of the Defence Brigades to storm the prison and shoot dead prisoners. They entered the prison and machine gunned down more than 1,000 inmates in a matter of minutes.
Inmates were routinely subjected to acts of torture and were not even allowed to raise their heads and look each other in the eyes.
3. Newgate Prison, England
When it comes to notorious prisons, England might not spring to mind, but for 600 years, Newgate Prison was a place of terror and squalor, but most of all, it was a place of death. Mass public executions were held there regularly, drawing massive crowds in the very centre of London. Famous murderers like Dr Neill Cream were marched to their deaths, but even hanging was seen as a kinder option than staying.
It was said that when you walked over the floor, it would crunch from the sheer number of lice and bed bugs. The prison was eventually closed in 1902 and the site is now home to the Old Bailey Criminal Court. Only one wall of the former prison remains in tact as a reminder of the grisly past.
These are just three of the most notorious prisons in the world, but there are thousands more. If anything, these prisons should serve as a testament to stay on the right side of the law.