It’s pretty alarming for those of us who have dedicated our lives to being decent, law-abiding citizens, but according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, the number of citizens being incarcerated has increased rapidly over the last few decades.
Currently, more than 10.35 million people are being held in penal institutions all over the world either as remand prisoners (individuals who have yet to be put on trial), or prisoners who have been convicted and sentenced.
Compared to the year 2000, the total number of women sentenced to time in prison has increased by around 50%. The number of male inmates has grown by about 18%.
Stats associated with prison populations vary greatly from country to country. For instance, in the United States, there are about 698 inmates to every 100,000 citizens whereas Denmark has 61 to every 100,000 citizens.
And the differences certainly don’t end there. Prison environments are incredibly distinctive when compared to those in other countries. While a prisoner in one country might have access to video games and musical instruments, other prisoners may barely have enough toilet paper to share between all of them.
We’ve compiled a series of photos featuring prison cells from all over the globe to highlight the differences in the way different countries treat criminals. The cells on this list include those in low-security prisons and those in prisons with max security. So while they can’t be all be compared on an equal basis, the photos do give us an idea of how convicts are dealt with in different countries.
1. Luzira Prison, Kampala, Uganda
In Luzira, inmates are assigned a number of responsibilities. They’re expected to grow and harvest their own food and then prepare and distribute it throughout the prison. A special emphasis is based on learning and education – in fact, many inmates teach carpentry skills to their fellow convicts. The reoffending rate in Luzira is less than 30%, while in the UK, it’s about 46% and around 76% in the United States.
2. Aranjuez Prison, Aranjuez, Spain
In the Spanish Aranjuez Prison, parents and children are allowed to stay with prisoners who they are related to. The prison is comprised of nurseries where the walls are decorated with Disney characters, and there are playgrounds to prevent any kids present from realizing that their parent has actually been locked up.
3. Norgerhaven Prison, Veenhuizen, Netherlands
Prisoners at Norgerhaven prison in Veenhuizen, Netherlands, have pretty much everything they could need in their cells. They have a bed, a fridge, furniture, a TV and a private bathroom.
What is particularly interesting about the crime rate in the Netherlands is that it’s so low that ‘undercrowding’ of prisons became a crisis in itself. In order to solve the ‘problem’, the country made a deal with Norway in 2015 that they would take on some of their prisoners. So now some Norwegian prisoners carry out their sentence in Norgerhaven.
4. Bastøy Prison, Horten, Norway
Bastøy prison is the biggest low-security prison in Norway. It is located on Bastøy island in the Oslo Fiord, in the Horten municipality.
Bastøy prison island has received criticism for allowing inmates – some of whom have committed heinous crimes such as murder and rape – to live so-called ‘luxurious’ lives behind bars. To the prison’s credit though, it has the lowest reoffending rate in the whole of Europe.
5. San Diego Medium-Security Women’s Prison, Cartagena, Colombia
Prisoners at the San Diego Women’s Prison in Cartagena get quite a bit of freedom every night as they turn into waitresses, cooks, and dishwashers at Interno, a restaurant in the facility. The female inmates at this low-security prison were put behind bars for crimes like theft, drug trafficking, and extortion.
6. Halden Prison, Halden, Norway
Halden Prison is a maximum-security in Norway and is the second-largest prison in the country. It places special emphasis on helping inmates prepare for rehabilitation, however, critics of the prison have accused it of being too liberal.
One female prison officer in an entirely different prison recently helped a male prisoner escape:
7. Penal De Ciudad Barrios, Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, El Salvador
Although the cells in this prison are only about 12 feet wide and 15 feet tall, they usually contain more than 30 people.
Initially, the intention was that they would be used as 72-hour holding cells, but many prisoners will be locked up for over a year.
Most of their days are spent 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.
8. Black Dolphin Prison, Sol-Iletsk, Russia
The infamous Russian prison, Black Dolphin Prison, is located on the border with Kazakhstan. In this facility, prisoners share small 50-square-foot cells. They are locked behind three sets of steel doors and so essentially live in a ‘cell within a cell’ under 24-hour surveillance.
9. HMP Addiewell, Lothian, Scotland
HMP Addiewell is a learning prison where inmates can learn to combat their criminal behavior through education, counseling, and work.
10. The Maula Prison, Lilongwe, Malawi
The Maula prison in Lilongwe, Malawi, is massively overcrowded. In 2015, nearly 200 people were forced to fit into a 60-person cell. They also have to share one toilet for every 120 people and one tap per 900 people. They’re fed just once a day, due to the insufficient budget of the Malawian government.
11. Champ-Dollon Prison, Geneva, Switzerland
The main purpose of Geneva’s Champ-Dollon prison is to hold prisoners before their trial.
12. Haiti’s Civil Prison, Arcahaie, Haiti
Haiti’s Civil Prison, on the coastal town of Arcahaie, is infamously overcrowded. In a 2016 riot, 174 inmates escaped and one guard was left dead and several others injured.
Sometimes inmates break the rules for all the right reasons. Watch this footage of a group of prisoners breaking out of the holding cell to help a guard who was having a heart attack:
13. Onomichi Prison, Onomichi, Japan
Onomichi Prison is a Japanese prison for the elderly. With an aging population, the country needed an all-senior prison where they have access to softer foods and handrails.
14. Oslo’s Skien Prison, Oslo, Norway
Prisons in Norway aim to replicate outside conditions as much as possible to prepare inmates for rehabilitation. In Oslo’s Skien prison, inmates have their own bathrooms, a television, video games and access to a gym and yard. Mass murderer Anders Breivik is currently serving a 21-year sentence there.
15. Landsberg Prison, Landsberg Am Lech, Germany
You might know this prison as the one where Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, and where 278 Nazis were executed for war crimes. These days, conditions in the prison are much better and more progressive.
So there you have it: there is no uniform way in which convicts are treated across the globe. It all depends on where in the world they were incarcerated. The reasons for these differences might be economic or might be due to a particular society’s values, but they definitely exist.