According to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, more than 10.35 million people are being held in prisons around the globe, either as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners or having been convicted and sentenced.
In comparison to the year 2000, the number of women serving time has increased about 50 percent while the male prison population has grown by about 18 percent. However, prison population rates vary considerably all around the world. For example, the US has 698 inmates for every 100,000 citizens while Denmark has only 61. And there are more differences. A prisoner in one place may have access to musical instruments and video games but may be fighting over a small roll of toilet paper in another.
We’ve collected pictures of cells from across the globe to show how different countries treat their criminals, and the contrast is eye-opening. The prison cells in the list range from low security to max security, and while they cannot be all compared directly, it gives us a pretty good sense of how different countries deal with criminals. It may be because of economic reasons or the way societies value life, yet if you found the information above a bit grey, the photos below will definitely grab everybody’s attention.
What do you think?
Halden Prison, Halden, Norway
This is a maximum-security prison in Halden, Norway. It has three central units and receives prisoners from all over the planet, but has no conventional security devices. The second-largest prison in Norway, it was established in 2010 with a focus on rehabilitation; its design simulates life outside the prison. Among other activities, sports and music are available to the prisoners, that interact with the unarmed staff to create a sense of community. Praised for its humane conditions, Halden Prison has received the Arnstein Arneberg Award for its interior design in 2010 and has been the subject of a documentary while it has also received criticism for being too liberal.
Champ-Dollon Prison, Geneva, Switzerland
Opened in 1977, the primary function of Geneva’s Champ-Dollon prison is to hold prisoners before trial and sentencing. The numbers of inmates are continually raising, which has led to a chronic issue of overcrowding. 115 different nationalities were represented in prison in 2010 with only 7.2 percent Swiss.
San Diego Medium-Security Women’s Prison, Cartagena, Colombia
Inmates at the San Diego Women’s Prison in Cartagena get a taste of freedom each night as they morph into cooks, waitresses, and dishwashers at “Interno,” a colorful restaurant now open in one of the facility’s indoor patios. 25 of the approximately 180 inmates housed here were chosen as part of a program striving to help women at the end of their sentences transition well back into society. Women at this low-security prison are serving time for crimes such as theft, drug trafficking, and extortion.
Bastøy Prison, Horten, Norway
Bastøy prison is the largest low-security prison in Norway. The prison is situated at Bastøy island in the Oslo Fiord, belonging to Horten municipality. The jail uses the whole island, but the northern part with the beach Nordbukta is defined as open to the public. This prison is organized as a small local community with approximately 80 buildings, roads, beach zones, cultural landscape, agricultural land, football field, and forest. Along with the prison functions, there’s a shop, library, information office, health services, church, school, NAV (government social services), dock, ferry service (with its own shipping agency) and a lighthouse with facilities to let for smaller meetings and seminars. On Bastoy prison island, the prisoners, some of whom are murderers and rapists, live in conditions that critics brand ‘cushy’ and ‘luxurious.’ Nevertheless, it has by far the lowest reoffending rate in Europe.
Norgerhaven Prison, Veenhuizen, Netherlands
Inmates at the Norgerhaven prison in Veenhuizen, Netherlands, have a bed, furniture, a refrigerator, and a TV in their cells, and a private bathroom. The crime rates in the Netherlands are so low that they faced an “undercrowding” crisis. To solve this issue the country struck a deal with Norway in 2015, to take on their prison overflow. Today part of Norwegian inmates serve their sentences in Norgerhaven.
Otago Corrections Facility, Milburn, New Zealand
It’s been dubbed the “Milton Hilton” – a place where prisoners can relax in ultimate luxury while they do their time. The Otago Corrections Facility in New Zealand looks more like a teenager’s bedroom than a prison. There are health facilities and a library designed to keep people feeling like members of society.
Oslo’s Skien Prison, Oslo, Norway
Prisons in Norway are meant to mimic outside conditions as much as possible to prepare inmates to reenter society. At Oslo’s Skien prison, inmates have private bathrooms, a TV, video games and access to a gym and yard. Mass murderer Anders Breivik is currently serving his 21-year sentence there. He tried to file a lawsuit against the state over “cruel” conditions in 2016. Nevertheless, the man’s prison life would seem luxurious to most people – his cell has three rooms, “one for living, one for studying, and a third for physical exercise — as well as a tv, a pc with no internet access and a game console. He is able to prepare his own food and do his own laundry.”
Aranjuez Prison, Aranjuez, Spain
Spain’s Aranjuez Prison lets parents and kids stay with their incarcerated family members. With Disney characters on the walls, a nursery, and a playground, the goal is to prevent children from realizing, as long as possible, that a parent is behind bars.
HMP Addiewell, Lothian, Scotland
HMP Addiewell is a learning prison, where residents can address their offending behavior and the circumstances that led to their imprisonment through Purposeful Activity. Activities include education, counseling, and work. Nature and family contact while in prison is also a fundamental element of the rehabilitation process.
Luzira Prison, Kampala, Uganda
In Luzira, inmates are assigned more responsibility that would be in similar prisons in the UK or the US. Inmates always assume responsibility for the maintenance of harmony and functionality of the units where they live, such as the growing and harvesting of food, its preparation and its distribution within the prison. Learning is encouraged, with many men learning and teaching carpentry skills to others. The guard to prisoner ration in Luzira is about 1:35, compared to 1:15 in the United Kingdom. Aggression among inmates is precisely the exception and not the rule. The recidivism rate in Luzira is less than 30%, compared with 46% in the UK and 76% in the US.
Onomichi Prison, Onomichi, Japan
Elderly prisons are surprisingly becoming more common around Japan as the country gradually ages. Onomichi Prison hosts an all-senior population. Inmates have access to handrails, soft food, and spend their working hours knitting and sewing.
UN Detention Unit, Outside The Hague, Netherlands
The UN Detention Unit (UNDU) is a UN-administered prison. It was created in 1993 as part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Today, the facility serves as the International Criminal Court detention center, where criminals are prosecuted for international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The jail houses the detained suspects during their trial and those convicted by the court serving prison sentences. Every cell has its own toilet and washing area. Inmates have access to a gym and a PE instructor, they can also cook for themselves. A pc is provided in each cell, where inmates can view material on their cases.
Landsberg Prison, Landsberg Am Lech, Germany
That’s the prison where Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf,” and 278 Nazis were executed for war crimes. Today, the conditions are considerably better at Landsberg. The progressive prison provides 36 courses in their central training center for occupations such as bakers, electricians, painters, butchers, carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, heating & ventilation workers and bricklayers.
ADX Florence, Colorado, US
US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, also known as ADX Florence, the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” and “Supermax,” is a modern super-maximum security federal prison situated in the foothills at the base of the Rocky Mountains near Florence, Colorado. Opened in 1994, the ADX Supermax prison was designed to incarcerate and isolate criminals recognized as being too dangerous for all of the average prison system. Most prisoners are kept in administrative segregation. They’re confined to a specially designed single-person cell for 23 hours per day. Prisoners are moved around under strict restraints (handcuffed, shackled or both), for their one hour time out, which includes showers, exercise, and with privileges, phone calls. Served in their cell, their meals are restricted to foods that cannot be used to harm themselves, or create unhygienic conditions.
Abashiri Prison, Abashiri, Japan
At Abashiri Prison in Japan, guards inspect inmates’ rooms once a day. The prison houses offenders with sentences of eight years or less. Life inside is rigorous, however, there is no record of gangster violence, rape, drugs or murder plots at the prison. Abashiri has a big souvenir shop in front of the main gate, where they sell goods made inside the prison. Items sold vary from Abashiri Prison Candy to all sorts of hand-made craft work.
Cebu Provincial Detention And Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), Cebu, Cebu Province, Philippines
CPDRC is a maximum security prison where prisoners perform dance routines as part of their everyday exercise and rehabilitation, and many of the prisoners’ performances are filmed and released online, making them a favorite feature among fans and veritable online celebrities.
The Las Colinas Detention And Reentry Facility, Santee, California
The prison was architectured to be the first detention facility of its kind in the United States where environmental and behavioral psychology are used to “improve the experience and behavior of both inmates and staff.”
Bois D’arcy Detention House, Yvelines, France
The prison holds inmates awaiting trial and convicted prisoners that are serving up to one-year sentences.
HM Prison Dartmoor, Princetown, England
Dartmoor still has a misplaced reputation for being a high-security prison that is escape-proof. As a Category C prison, Dartmoor houses mainly non-violent offenders and white-collar criminals. It also holds sex offenders and offers sex offender treatment programmes intended to make the offender realize their behavior is unacceptable. Some inmates subsequently volunteer for behavior-changing treatment with medication under a scheme being piloted at HMP Whatton, which has had encouraging results.
Black Dolphin Prison, Sol-Iletsk, Russia
At Russia’s notorious Black Dolphin Prison on the border of Kazakhstan, inmates share small 50-square-foot cells which are set back behind three sets of solid steel doors. Inmates dwell in a “cell within a cell,” with 24-hour surveillance. Black Dolphin houses the most brutal criminals, including serial killers, cannibals, and terrorists. A prison lieutenant told National Geographic, that did a documentary on the prison that indeed the only way to escape is by passing away. If you combine all the crimes of the criminals inside, they’ve killed approximately 3,500 people. That is an average of five murders per inmate.
San Pedro Prison, La Paz, Bolivia
San Pedro prison is guarded by police officers rather than a hired civilian force; guards are only concerned with keeping inmates confined in the jail. The order inside prison is maintained by elected leaders, commonly through stabbing. Inmates must purchase their own cells from other inmates. The wealthiest ones live in an area called “La Posta,” which provides inmates with private bathrooms, a kitchen, and cable television, such cells are sold for around $1,500-1,800. Wealthiest inmates can buy luxury cells that may include three floors and a hot tub. Nevertheless, most of those inside the prison live in cramped conditions with it being common for single-room cells to accommodate five people. Many inmates live with their families because it is believed to be safer inside the prison than on the impoverished streets. Cocaine is produced inside the compound, a lot of inmates make a living by selling it to tourists, Although tourism in prison is illegal, many people gain access to a tour by bribing the guards.
Ashimpur Central Jail, Gazipur, Bangladesh
About 1,200 inmates live in Kashimpur Central Jail in Gazipur, Bangladesh.
San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California
San Quentin State Prison is the oldest prison (Opened in July 1852) in California. It is a maximum-security facility that once housed Charles Manson. Men condemned to death in California have to (with some exceptions) be held at San Quentin. It is the state’s only death row for male inmates, the largest in the US. In 2001, San Quentin’s death row was described as “the largest in the Western Hemisphere”; and in 2005, it was referred to as, “the most populous execution antechamber in the US. The “death row” prison count, as of December 2015, was 708 male inmates.
Pelican Bay State Prison, Crescent City, California
Pelican Bay State Prison’s primary purpose is to house the “worst of the worst” violent male prisoners from the California state prison system. 40 percent of Pelican State’s inmates are serving life sentences, and nearly all have histories of violence at other California prisons which resulted in their transfer to Pelican Bay. The sole exception is the institution’s minimum security inmates who work as part of the prison’s outside maintenance and firefighter programs.
The Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno, Oklahoma
The Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, is a medium-security facility which houses approximately 1,000 male inmates. It has one of two remaining farm facilities in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Neve Tirza, Ramla, Israel
Neve Tirza is Israel’s only women’s prison. Most cells are 13 square meters, including a toilet and shower. Every cell houses about six women, that often have to share sleeping spaces.
El Buen Pastor Women’s Prison, Bogota, Colombia
The El Buen Pastor women’s prison in Bogota, Colombia contains cells that were designed to house two inmates but now house anywhere between ten to twenty women. Corruption and violence are prominent amongst prisoners. Despite harsh conditions, El Buen Pastor makes attempts to humanize its inmates by a holding an annual beauty pageant and parade.
Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa Penitentiary, Manaus, Brazil
Inmates face almost certain danger at Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa prison in Manaus, Brazil. Four people were murdered in an inmate uprising last year, and dozens were killed at other prisons around the city.
Petak Island Prison, Vologda, Russia
Frequently referred to as the “Alcatraz of Russia,” Petak Island holds Russia’s most dangerous criminals. Aside from the mental torture of 22.5-hours-a-day lockdowns in two-person rooms, most prisoners are allowed just two visitors per year. And that is all the inmates can ever hope for, as the prison itself is hopelessly inescapable, surrounded by the freezing waters of White Lake.
Altiplano Prison, Almoloya De Juarez, Mexico
Altiplano is a high-security prison in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico. The total maximum security federal prison was built with walls that are as much as one meter in thickness and the airspace near the facility is restricted. Authorities claim that cell phone transmissions are limited within 10 km (6.2 mi) of the prison to stymie communications between the inmates and their colleagues outside. Armored personnel carriers are also based close to the facility on protecting it against a potential assault. This prison was considered to be impenetrable until July 11, 2015, when “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped through a tunnel.
Rikers Island Prison, New York, US
Rikers Island of New York was named one of the US’s ten worst prisons by Mother Jones. The island has been well-known for decades and has been under the watch of a federal monitor overseeing inmate treatment. The penitentiary drew a new wave of criticism just after 2015 for the suicide of Kalief Browder, a teenager who’d spent a whole three years on the island waiting for trial on charges of stealing a backpack. As of 2018, the population at the prison is below 9,000 for the first time in 25 years and in fact, plans to close it are being made.
Bordeaux Prison, Montreal, Canada
Bordeaux Prison in Montreal, Canada, houses 1,000 to 1,500 male inmates with sentences of two years or less.
Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran
Even though the Iranian regime has often denied it, Evin Prison is known to be a real torture factory, where many inmates have met their fate. Due to the number of intellectuals imprisoned within its walls, the prison has been nicknamed Evin University. The jail is exceptionally overcrowded, hygiene is poor, and in Iran’s sweltering hot summers, the temperature can reach up to 45 degrees Celsius. There’is no form of air conditioning, and the air within cells becomes rank with sweat and human waste. Water quality is terrible and barely edible food comes in meager portions. Medical facilities are virtually non-existent. The entire process is designed to break the resolve of political prisoners, where pressure for a confession continues until the captive finally breaks their silence. To add to all the anguish, contact with the outside world is entirely cut off. Family visits and telephone calls are forbidden, and even the guards are ordered to be silent.
Quezon City Jail, Quezon City, Philippines
Inside Quezon City jail in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, there’s a relentless and constant battle for space, water, and food in an entirely unhygienic facility. With 160 to 200 inmates crammed into a cell built for only20, men take turns sleeping uncomfortably on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court, the steps of staircases, underneath beds and filthy hammocks made out of old blankets.
Haiti’s Civil Prison, Arcahaie, Haiti
Haiti’s Civil Prison, on the beautiful coastal town of Arcahaie, is notoriously overcrowded. In 2016, 174 inmates escaped during a riot which left one guard dead and others injured.
The Maula Prison, Lilongwe, Malawi
The Maula prison in Lilongwe, Malawi, is severely overcrowded — in 2015, approximately 200 people were crammed into one 60-person cell. Prisoners there, so many of whom are Ethiopian migrants, have to share one toilet per 120 people, as well as one tap per 900 people. Prisoners are fed only once a day, because of the tiny budget of the Malawian government. One of a few highlights for the inmates is sports. Men are allowed to play football and women can play basketball.
Penal De Ciudad Barrios, Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, El Salvador
These cells are only 12 feet wide and 15 feet tall, but they are usually packed with over 30 people. They were initially built to serve as 72-hour holding cells. However, many inmates reside for more than a year. Most of their days are spent slowly pulling apart their clothes and using the thread to sew together hammocks, where they sleep stacked on top of one another like cords of wood.