Top 10 Most Dangerous Prisons in the World
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Top 10 Most Dangerous Prisons in the World

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
You don't want to end up in any of these places! For this list, we'll be looking at infamous prisons that are notorious for their violence and poor living conditions. Our countdown includes San Quentin State Prison, Bang Kwang Central Prison, Alcatraz, and more!
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Top 10 Toughest Prisons in the World


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 toughest prisons in the world.

For this list, we’ll be looking at infamous prisons that are notorious for their violence and poor living conditions.

Which prison do you think looks the scariest? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: La Santé Prison


Located in Paris, La Santé is anything but your typical prison. Since its inception in 1867, it has been the site of several riots, executions and escapes. According to prison doctor Veronique Vasseur, inmates often suffer from health issues due to several factors including poorly ventilated cells and only being allowed to take showers twice a week. Living conditions were so terrible at La Santé that many prisoners have attempted to take their own lives. Given these circumstances, we truly find it hard to believe that a prison would include the french translation of the word “health” in its name.

#9: Bang Kwang Central Prison

Just north of Bangkok, Thailand, is Bang Kwang Central Prison. Opened in 1933, Bang Kwang houses Thailand’s execution chamber and is notorious for its high risk and dangerous criminals. Historically, prisoners were typically forced to have shackles welded to their legs to prevent escape—though these regulations were changed in 2013. Still, the overcrowded inmates are all squeezed into small cells, and torture is reportedly commonplace. Past inmates have told stories of guards beating mentally ill, elderly, and pregnant prisoners, and malnourished inmates attacking each other over anything of value. As for the meals, well, the term “maggot-infested” seems to come up a lot.


#8: Diyarbakir Prison

Located in southeastern Turkey, Diyarbakir is one of the most inhumane prisons in the world owing to rampant and systemic prisoner abuse. The prison is notorious for overcrowding, and prisoners are often subjected to various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, physical beatings, and even a dog that was trained to bite genitals. Mehdi Zana, the former mayor of Diyarbakir, who spent over a decade in the prison, revealed that new prisoners were thrown into a bathtub full of human waste. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Things were especially bad when Diyarbakir served as a military prison in the 1980s, with many killed by guards and dozens taking their own lives.


#7: Sabaneta Prison

This prison in Maracaibo, Venezuela was an extremely violent prison that operated from 1958 to 2013. Built to house just 700 prisoners, Sabaneta was home to 3,700 by the time it closed in the early 2010s. The prison was entirely run by the inmates themselves, complete with a hierarchy of gangs and leaders known as “prans”. One of the prans was Mocho Edwin, a man who had committed triple homicide in the late 2000s. Naturally, the prison was rife with violence. In 1994, inmates intentionally started a fire and killed those who tried to escape, reportedly resulting in over 150 deaths. In 2013—the final year of the prison’s operation—69 prisoners were killed by other inmates.


#6: ADX Florence

Located in the Fremont County of Colorado, ADX Florence is a supermax prison—one level higher than maximum security, and housing the absolute worst criminals in the country. These criminals are often extremely violent and typically pose a serious threat to prison staff, other inmates, or even national security. Florence houses just 359 prisoners, each of whom is kept in a small concrete cell for 23 hours a day. Mental health often deteriorates inside the cells, and at least eight inmates have apparently committed suicide over the years. Some of the prison’s most notable inmates include the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, numerous terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda, the Boston Marathon bomber, the Unabomber, Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing, and Mexican drug lord El Chapo.


#5: Carandiru Penitentiary

Built back in 1920, Brazil’s Carandiru was once South America’s largest prison, housing more than 8,000 inmates. The prison was infamous for its poor quality of life, rampant health issues, and numerous human rights violations. The latter eventually culminated in the Carandiru massacre. The event began after a game of football, as a fight between two teams escalated into a chaotic prison riot. The military police were called in and proceeded to massacre the inmates, many of whom were unarmed and killed in defensive positions. By the end of the riot, 111 prisoners were dead, riddled with 515 bullets in total. Over 60 police officers were convicted for their crimes, but the trials have since been deemed null.


#4: Muhanga Prison

Formerly known as Gitarama Prison, Rwanda’s Muhanga Prison was built to house just 400 prisoners, but ended up housing 7,000. As you can image, living conditions inside the prison are deplorable, and many prisoners suffer from gangrene owing to the filthy accommodations. Given that they’re often forced to stand all day on the wet and dirty ground, the health complications are many and severe. There have even been reports of cannibalism. Brigitte Troyon of the International Committee of the Red Cross has succinctly stated, quote “The conditions here are completely inhumane.”


#3: San Quentin State Prison

Serving as the oldest prison in California, San Quentin was opened in 1852 and remains one of the United States’ most infamous penitentiaries. It’s known as the most populous death row in the country, with the New York Times even deeming it quote “the largest in the Western Hemisphere”. Since 1893, over 400 people have been put to death at San Quentin. It’s housed some of the most dangerous men in America, including Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, and Richard Chase. The prison is also notable for being extremely old, outdated, and dirty, with prisoners receiving poor health care.

#2: Alcatraz

Although it closed all the way back in 1963, Alcatraz was notorious in its time and remains one of the most iconic prisons in the world owing to its reputation and unique setting. Located on Alcatraz Island just off San Francisco, the prison’s remote and secluded location made it the perfect place to house high risk and dangerous criminals. Life inside the prison was said to be Hell, with many prisoners going insane and committing suicide owing to the relentless violence and poor living conditions. It eventually gained the nickname “Hellcatraz” owing to its reputation, and it housed some of the most notorious criminals of its day, including Al Capone, Mickey Cohen, Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert Stroud, aka the Birdman of Alcatraz.


#1: Guantanamo Bay

Located off the coast of Cuba, Guantanamo Bay was opened in 2002 under the direction of President Bush. Following the September 11th attacks, Bush initiated the War on Terror and opened Guantanamo Bay to serve as a military prison. The prison has received widespread criticism for indefinite detention without trial and the routine use of torture, including waterboarding and sexual abuse. There have also been reports of several suicides and of numerous suicide attempts. Under the Obama administration, the number of inmates was reduced; however, Guantanamo Bay remains open. Amnesty International has called the prison a major human rights violation, describing it as quote “the Gulag of our times.”
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