10 Worst Prisons In History

10 Worst Prisons In History 10) Pitesti Prison From 1949 until 1951, this Stalinist Romanian prison was home to an infamous experiment known as the Pitesti Experiment According to Open Democracy, this experiment was actually started by inmates of the prison itself, who had been jailed as anti-Communist facists

They formed the ODCC, or the Organisation of Prisoners with Communist Convictions, and went about “re-educating” other inmates in the most horrifying ways possible This included torturing other inmates by making them stare at lightbulbs, making them repeatedly headbutt each other, even electrocution They were also kept in squalid conditions on purpose, and forced to perform humiliating tasks, such as baptisms involving sewage This would then break other prisoners into joining the ODCC and renouncing their anti-communist tendencies It’s worth noting this was fully supported by the director of the prison itself

This was eventually stopped in 1952 after a regime shift in the country, but by that point over 700 prisoners had been through the horrific process, 30 of whom died 9) The Mamertine Labelling Italy’s Mamertine “prison” is a bit of a misnomer really, as it was more similar to a hybrid of a 12-foot deep underground dungeon and sewage system Built in the 7th Century BC, the Mamertine was essentially two dark, dank cells stacked on top of each other There was no natural light, due to them being subterranean – in fact the only way to get out or into the lower cell was via a hole in the ground of the upper one Sallust, an ancient historian, described it as having a fearsome darkness and stench

Prisoners were often put into the lower chamber before execution; failing that, they left them to rot and starve there This complex was within a sewage system Legend has it that St Peter and Paul were actually held here, but did not die there as they were later crucified For this reason it’s part of various pilgrimages, and has since been converted into a church, memorialising the abject horror the prisoners of the Mamertine went through 8) Urga Prison, Mongolia In 1916, naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews, future director of American Museum of Natural History, travelled across Asia

He documented his experiences in his book Across Mongolian Plains in 1921, during which he mentions witnessing a prison he described as “one of the worst in the world” In it, he mentions seeing rooms full of coffins that were four feet long and two feet wide Andrews explains that it was these tombs that were the prisoners' cells, which were designed so that the prisoners couldn’t fully lay down OR sit up comfortably There was just a six inch wide hole in the coffins where they are given food – that is, to quote Andrews, “if they remembered to give them any” They were also handcuffed and their limbs would shrivel away due to a lack of use

While the length of the stay in these caskets varied, and would often be to hold prisoners before they were executed, many of them unsurprisingly died in this horrific captivity 7) Camp Sumter Military Prison, Georgia Created during the American Civil War, in February of 1864, Camp Sumter Military Prison was the largest Confederate prison in the whole conflict Also known as Andersonville, Camp Sumter was built to hold 10,000 people – but held over 30,000, which gives you a hint at the problems it faced The prison was supposed to be built rapidly, but the price of lumber was hugely inflated at this time, which meant it was never fully built properly As a result, there were no barracks to keep them in, and instead the prisoners were open to the elements Some had shanties made of blankets and bits of wood, others dug holes in the ground for themselves The camp had a creek with water running through it, but this was soon contaminated with sewage, making the prisoners extremely vulnerable to disease There was also very little food due to the Confederates losing supplies, and what food they had was of extremely low quality with next to no proper preparation

By the time the prison was closed with the end of the war, 13,000 inmates had died as a result of these conditions, and its commander, Henry Wirz, was executed for their murder 6) Carandiru Penitentiary Over 7000 inmates lived within the walls of Brazil’s Carandiru penitentiary, where there was only space for a third of that As a result, there was one guard per every HUNDRED prisoners, so things were bound to go wrong As soon as prisoners arrive, they are told to “rent” their cells Even those lucky enough to have left the prison still apparently owed back payments

They actually tend to have a fair bit of freedom and control and can get whatever they want through illicit means, including mobile phones There’s even a prison within the prison, called the “yellow”, as those in there rarely see sunlight However, it’s most famous for the results of a riot after a game of soccer 300 police officers stormed the jail, and killed over 100 of the prisoners Allegedly this included prisoners who had surrendered or who were trying to hide, often at close range

In 2014, 73 of the police officers were convicted, some of whom were sentenced to 156 years in jail The prison was later demolished in 2002 5) Devil’s Island Ten miles off the coast of French Guiana lay one of the deadliest and most notorious jails in the whole of the French penal colony – Ile du Diable, or Devil’s Island Initially used as a leper colony, soon political prisoners were sent to the island too, during its use between 1852 to 1953 The prison was pretty much the only building on the whole island, surrounded by shark infested waters, which were often the downfall of any seafaring would-be escapees

The convicts were forced to provide labour in all conditions while shackled – some were even exposed to the elements all the time with no roof on their very small cells This meant they were open to being attacked by animals on the island too, like vampire bats and rats Solitary confinement was also often in complete pitch black Devil’s Island saw 80,000 prisoners come and go, though the vast majority never got to leave the island as thousands upon thousands died of various diseases as well as the poor diet The general public can visit other islands in the penal colony, but venturing to Devil’s Island is strictly taboo

4) HMS Jersey It’s the late 18th century in America, at the height of the war for independence against the British, who were occupying New York City at the time Prisons of war or rebels had to imprisoned by the British somewhere, as they numbered by the thousands, so the British used warships that were docked at shore to keep them on, as prison ships The worst of these was the ship nicknamed “Hell” – the HMS Jersey It transpires that name is horrifyingly suitable This ship kept more than 1000 prisoners onboard, where they were tortured, starved and exposed to a deadly combination of diseases

The ship was meant for 400 sailors The prisoners had nowhere to even sit or lie Since the vast majority of the prisoners were kept below deck, there was no sunlight and little ventilation In the summer it was deathly warm; in the winter, unspeakably cold Those onboard the ship were actually given a choice – one way out was to betray their country and join the British Army

But the many thousands that died clearly didn’t take or weren’t even given that choice, as the number of people who died onboard the Jersey and other prison ships was almost three times the amount of patriots who died in armed combat 3) Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnam Hoa Lo Prison was nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War, but it was anything but luxury A prison camp for American Prisoners of War, the conditions at Hoa Lo deteriorated rapidly with the increase of prisoners The Vietnamese government used extreme methods of torture in order to extract military secrets from the US soldiers, including rope bindings, beatings, and solitary confinement As well as this, prisoners' legs were often strapped in irons or stocks that were left from the French Colonial era of the prison

These were so tight, that they often cut into the skin, causing lacerations, and infections They were also forced to defecate where they lay, and left to rot with the rats and cockroaches Prisoners were rarely fed as starvation was used as a form of torture, and when they were fed, they were often given watery soups with faeces and rocks George McKnight, a 6ft2 US soldier, was forced to lay in a 4ft trench with his hands tied behind his back for 34 days, as torture for trying to escape Hoa Lo The Vietnamese Government still denies the wrongdoings to these POWs to this day

2) Tadmur Prison, Syria Built by the French in the 1930s, Tadmur Prison is located in the heart of the Syrian Desert, and was the place that Syrian Prime Minister Hafez-al Assad sent thousands of political dissidents to be humiliated, tortured, and executed between 1971 and 2000 The prison is best known for it’s 1980 massacre After a failed attempt at assassinating Assad, members of the Defence Brigade flew to Tamdur and their soldiers went from cell to cell, shooting prisoners with machine guns An Amnesty International report estimates that up to 1000 people were murdered in just minutes, most of which were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood Their bodies were dumped in a mass grave outside of the prison

Cells had windows covered with barbed wire and prisoners were under permanent surveillance and not allowed to make eye-contact with each other On arrival, new inmates were thrown a “reception party”, where they were whipped mercilessly, forced into car tyres and beaten Some prisoners never even made it through that reception When inmates would cry out for medical help for dying prisoners, they were told “only call us to collect bodies” 1) Holmesburg Prison, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Holmesburg Prison was opened in 1896, to help relieve overcrowding at the nearby Moyamensing Prison

Much like other entries on this list, this prison was no stranger to torture, corruption, and murder In 1938, over half of inmates went on a hunger strike, because the food was that bad Twenty-five of these were identified as leaders of the strike, and taken to a building called the Klondike – a narrow cell block lined with radiators and steam pipes which, in the peak of an August heatwave, peaked at nearly 200 degrees Four of these men died with injuries pertaining to severe beatings and being boiled alive The prison has also been the setting of many murders, including that of the warden and his deputy in 1973, and a bloody riot in 1970, in which prisoners were armed with meat cleavers and boning knives

During a lawsuit that followed, attention was drawn to the filthy and overcrowded conditions and severe beatings that inmates had to endure As if that wasn’t bad enough, prisoners were also subjected to medical experiments, where Dr Albert Kligman exposed participants to herpes, staphylococcus, radioactive isotopes, chemicals that caused skin blistering, psychoactive drugs, and carcinogens

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