All over the world, more and more people are being sent behind bars. According to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, over 10.35 million people are being held in penal institutions throughout the world, either as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners or having been convicted and sentenced.
In comparison to the year 2000, the total number of women serving time has increased by about 50% while the male prison population has grown by about 18%. However, prison inmates rates vary considerably all around the world: for instance, the United States has 698 inmates for every 100,000 citizens while Denmark has 61.
Worldwide numbers are interesting, but the difference between the various national states is perhaps even more remarkable.
In Italy, 59,275 people are detained (as of September 30, 2018, according to Ministry of Justice data) out of a total of just over 60 million people, for a percentage of 0.098% of prisoners out of the total population (98 people every 100,000). The United States has a prison population of 2,121,300 people, 0.7% out of a total of 323.1 million people, an impressive percentage almost 8 times higher than the Italian one, which indicates the number of 710 people per 100,000 the number of detainees.
The US accounts for 4.4% of the world’s population, but its inmates make up 22% of the total number of prisoners in the world.
To complete the picture of “top criminalities” there are China, with its 1.6 million prisoners, Brazil with 690,000 and Russia with 590,000 (World Prison Studies Data).
The state with the lowest number of prisoners in the world is San Marino, whose prison looks more like a 4-star hotel rather than a detention facility, and which counts, in periods of “overcrowding”, 2 or 3 inmates out of a population of about 32,000 people (9 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants).
Below, the map with the rate of prisoners in countries around the world:
But of course there are more differences, too. Inmates in one place might have access to musical instruments and video games but might be fighting over a roll of toilet paper in another, more similar like to cells for transporting animals than prisons for human beings.
Below you will find some images of prison cells from all over the globe to show how different countries treat their criminals. It is curious to see how, in states with better organized prisons than others, the percentage of prisoners out of the total population is much lower than those where prisoners are treated inhumanly.
#1 Aranjuez Prison, Aranjuez, Spain 🇪🇸
Spain’s Aranjuez Prison lets parents and children stay with their incarcerated family members. With Disney characters on the walls, a nursery, and a playground, the purpose is to prevent kids from realizing, as long as possible, that a parent is an inmate.
#2 Luzira Prison, Kampala, Uganda 🇺🇬
Here inmates are assigned more responsibility for maintenance of harmony and functionality of the units where they live, including the growing and harvesting of food, its preparation and its distribution within the prison.
#3 Bastøy Prison, Horten, Norway 🇳🇴
The prison is located at Bastøy island in the Oslo Fiord, belonging to Horten municipality. It is organized as a small local community with about 80 buildings, roads, beach zones, cultural landscape, football field, agricultural land and forest.
#4 Halden Prison, Halden, Norway 🇳🇴
This is a maximum-security prison in Halden, Norway and it has three main units and receives prisoners from all over the world and no conventional security devices. Praised for its humane conditions, Halden Prison has received the Arnstein Arneberg Award for its interior design in 2010 and been the subject of a documentary, but has also received criticism for being too liberal.
#5 Onomichi Prison, Onomichi, Japan 🇯🇵
It hosts an all-senior population. Inmates have access to handrails, soft food, and spend their working hours knitting and sewing.
#6 Norgerhaven Prison, Veenhuizen, Netherlands 🇳🇱
Here inmates have a bed, furniture, a refrigerator, and a TV in their cells, as well as a private bathroom. The crime rates in the Netherlands are so low, that they faced an “undercrowding” crisis. To solve this “problem”, the country struck a deal with Norway in 2015, to take on their prison overflow. Now part of Norwegian inmates serve their sentences in Norgerhaven.
#7 HMP Addiewell, Lothian, Scotland 🏴
This is a learning prison, where residents can address their offending behaviour and the circumstances which led to their imprisonment through Purposeful Activity, which include education, counseling and work.
#8 Black Dolphin Prison, Sol-Iletsk, Russia 🇷🇺
At this notorious prison, on the border of Kazakhstan, inmates share small 50-square-foot cells that are set back behind three sets of steel doors. Inmates live in a “cell within a cell”, with 24-hour surveillance. Black Dolphin houses the most brutal criminals, including serial killers, cannibals, and terrorists. It seems that the only way to escape is by dying….
#9 Champ-Dollon Prison, Geneva, Switzerland 🇨🇭
Opened in 1977, the main function of this prison is to hold prisoners before trial and sentencing. The numbers of inmates is constantly increasing, which has lead to a chronic problem of overcrowding. 115 different nationalities were represented in the prison in 2010 with just 7.2% Swiss!
#10 The Las Colinas Detention And Reentry Facility, Santee, California 🇺🇸
The prison was designed to be the first detention facility of its kind in the U.S. where environmental and behavioral psychology are used to “improve the experience and behavior of both inmates and staff”.
#11 Landsberg Prison, Landsberg Am Lech, Germany 🇩🇪
This is 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 centre for occupations such as bakers, electricians, painters, butchers, carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, heating & ventilation workers and bricklayers.
12# Abashiri Prison, Abashiri, Japan 🇯🇵
Here guards inspect inmates’ rooms once a day, and the prison houses offenders with sentences of 8 years or less. Life inside is very strict, however there’s no record of gang violence, rape, drugs or murder at the prison. Abashiri has a souvenir shop in front of the main gate, where they sell goods made inside the prison.
13# Cebu Provincial Detention And Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), Cebu, Philippines 🇵🇭
CPDRC is a maximum security prison where the prisoners perform dance routines as part of their daily exercise and rehabilitation, and many of their performances are filmed and released online, making them a popular feature among fans and online celebrities.
#14 Penal De Ciudad Barrios, Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, El Salvador 🇸🇻
These cells are just 3,5 meters wide and 4,5 meters tall, but they’re usually filled with more than 30 people. They were initially constructed to serve as 72-hour holding cells, but many inmates stay inside for more than a year. Most of their days are spent pulling apart their clothes and using the thread to sew together hammocks.
#15 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. However, his prison life seems “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 television, a computer without internet access and a game console.
#16 Otago Corrections Facility, Milburn, New Zealand 🇳🇿
It has been dubbed the “Milton Hilton”, a place where prisoners can relax in ultimate luxury while they do their time. It 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.
#17 The Maula Prison, Lilongwe, Malawi 🇲🇼
It is severely overcrowded: in 2015, almost 200 people were crammed into one 60-person cell. Prisoners there, many of whom are Ethiopian migrants, must share one toilet per 120 people and one tap per 900 people. Prisoners are fed just once a day, due to the small budget of the Malawian government.
#18 ADX Florence, Colorado, United States 🇺🇸
US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, also known as ADX Florence, is a modern super-maximum security federal prison located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Florence, Colorado. Opened in 1994, it was designed to incarcerate and isolate criminals deemed as being too dangerous for the average prison system. The majority of prisoners are kept in administrative segregation. They are confined to a specifically designed single-person cell for 23 hours a day. Prisoners are moved around under strict restraints (handcuffed, shackled or both), for their 1 hour time out, which includes showers, exercise, and with privileges, phone calls. Served in their cell, their meals are restricted to foods that can’t be used to harm themselves, or create unhygienic conditions.
#19 Haiti’s Civil Prison, Arcahaie, Haiti 🇭🇹
Located on the coastal town of Arcahaie, is notoriously overcrowded. In 2016, 174 inmates escaped during a riot that left one guard dead and others injured.
#20 United Nations Detention Unit (UNDU), Outside The Hague, Netherlands 🇳🇱
This is UN-administered jail. It was established in 1993 as part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The facility now serves as the International Criminal Court detention centre, where individuals are prosecuted for the international crimes of 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. A personal computer is provided in each cell, where inmates can view material about their cases.
#21 Petak Island Prison, Vologda, Russia 🇷🇺
Often referred to as the “Alcatraz of Russia,” it holds Russia’s most dangerous criminals. Aside from the mental torture of 22.5-hour-a-day lockdowns in two-man rooms, most prisoners are allowed just two visitors per year. And that’s all the inmates can ever hope for, as the prison itself is hopelessly inescapable, surrounded by the freezing waters of White Lake.
#22 San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California 🇺🇸
Opened in July 1852, It is the oldest prison in California. It’s a maximum-security facility and men condemned to death in California must (with some exceptions) be held there.
#23 Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran 🇮🇷
Although the Iranians has continuously denied it, it is known to be a virtual torture factory, where countless numbers of inmates have met their fate. The prison is extremely 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 bad and barely edible food comes in meagre portions. Medical facilities are virtually non-existent. Moreover, contact with the outside world is completely cut off.
#24 HM Prison Dartmoor, Princetown, England 🏴
As a Category C prison, it 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 realise their behaviour is unacceptable.
#25 Quezon City Jail, Quezon City, Philippines 🇵🇭
Inside Quezon City jail in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, there is a relentless and constant battle for space, water, and food in an unhygienic facility. With 160 to 200 inmates crammed into a cell built for 20, men take turns sleeping on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court, the steps of staircases, underneath beds and hammocks made out of old blankets.
#26 El Buen Pastor Women’s Prison, Bogota, Colombia 🇨🇴
It contains cells that were designed to house 2 inmates but now house anywhere between 10 to 20 women. Despite harsh conditions, El Buen Pastor makes attempts to humanize its inmates by a holding an annual beauty pageant and parade.
#27 Pelican Bay State Prison, Crescent City, California 🇺🇸
Its primary purpose is to house the “worst of the worst” violent male prisoners from the California state prison system. 40% 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 there.
#28 San Pedro Prison, La Paz, Bolivia 🇧🇴
It is guarded by police officers rather than a hired civilian force, guards are only concerned with keeping inmates confined in the prison. The order inside prison is kept by elected leaders, commonly through stabbing. Inmates must purchase their own cells from other inmates. The wealthiest ones live in area called “La Posta”, which provides them with private bathrooms, a kitchen, and cable television, cells that are sold for around $1,500-1,800 Bolivianos. Wealthiest inmates can buy luxury cells that may include three floors and a hot tub. However, most of those inside the prison live in terrible conditions with it being common for single-room cells to accommodate five people. A lot of inmates live with their families because it’s believed to be safer inside the prison than on the streets. Cocaine is produced inside the compound, a lot of inmates make a living by selling it to tourists, Although tourism in the prison is illegal, many people gain access to a tour by bribing the guards.
#29 Rikers Island Prison, New York, United States 🇺🇸
It was named one of the US’s 10 worst prisons and the island has been famous for decades. The prison drew a new wave of criticism after 2015 for the suicide of Kalief Browder, a teenager who’d spent three years on the island waiting for trial on charges of stealing a backpack.
#30 Neve Tirza, Ramla, Israel 🇮🇱
It is Israel’s only women’s prison. Most cells are 13 square meters, including a toilet and shower. Each cell houses about six women, who often have to share sleeping spaces.
#31 Bordeaux Prison, Montreal, Canada 🇨🇦
It houses 1,000 to 1,500 male inmates with sentences of two years or less.
#32 Altiplano Prison, Almoloya De Juarez, Mexico 🇲🇽
It is a high-security prison, built with walls that are as much as 1 meter in thickness and the air space near the facility is restricted. Authorities claim that cell phone transmissions are limited within 10 km of the prison to stymie communications between the inmates and their colleagues outside. This prison was thought to be impenetrable until the July 11, 2015, when “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped through a tunnel.
#33 Kashimpur Central Jail, Gazipur, Bangladesh 🇧🇩
About 1,200 inmates live there.
#34 The Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno, Oklahoma 🇺🇸
It is a medium-security facility that houses about 1,000 male inmates. It has one of two remaining farm facilities in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
#35 Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa Penitentiary, Manaus, Brazil 🇧🇷
In Brazil inmates face almost certain danger. Here recently four people were killed in an inmate uprising, and dozens were killed at other prisons around the city.