What Is the Most Secure Prison in the World?

There are few scarier and more secure places on earth than jail. Being locked up with murderers and worse is not something you ever want to be doing. But incarceration is on the rise in the United States. More than two million people are locked up across the States. In fact, the last 40 years have seen an increase of 500% people going to jail. This is just staggering. This is mainly due to changes in the way people are sentenced. This has led to prisons being overcrowded and many minority groups targeted and sentenced to jail. But it’s not just America. This is happening all over the world. There are said to be around 11 million imprisoned globally. This is resulting in overcrowding in many prisons, leading to less than favorable conditions for inmates. Even the most secure prison in the world face these challenges.

In some jails, a prisoner convicted of lesser crimes is being forced to mix with known killers and career criminals. Interaction between gangs is getting harder to control. With so many criminals squashed together in small spaces, it’s no wonder crims continue to try and escape jail. But there are still some prisons in the world where security is of the utmost priority. These maximum security prisons have more guards, greater security measures, and new technologies that keep prisoners only dreaming of escape.

So What Is the Most Secure Prison in the World?

There are a number of facilities scattered around the world that hold the worst of the worst. South Africa, New York, and Mumbai have some of the most secure prisons in the world. These prisons are near inescapable. People who find themselves in these prisons much learn to deal with the harshness of inmate life, do their time, and hope parole is a possibility. From the ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ to Arthur Road Jail in India, these are the 10 most secure prisons in the world.

10. Qincheng Prison, China

ministry of public security qincheng prison

Zoom in China/YouTube

The notorious Ministry of Public Security Qincheng Prison is China’s only military-owned prison. Built in 1958 with help from the Soviets, the ‘Tiger’s Cage’ is 3,000 feet above sea level. Qincheng has been home to many political prisoners and those from China’s high society. The likes of Chairman Mao‘s widow Jiang Qing, writer and activist Bao Tong, and former politician Bo Xilai have all done time there.

Divided into three sections, the prisoners are split into ranking classes based on their lives outside of the prison. Those with higher social status are often treated better than those from the lower class. The cells in Qincheng Prison are 220 square feet and contain no furniture bar bunk beds. One plus is a small window so inmates can gaze out into the world. There are no names used in the prison either, with inmates given a number and staff called by the position they hold. Exercise is limited to pacing up and down the courtyard while guards watch on.

9. Mumbai Central Prison, India

mumbai central prison

Amol Parchure/YouTube

This is the oldest and largest prison in Mumbai, India. It was built by the British almost a century ago and was once an isolated building far from civilization. But due to the ever expanding city of Mumbai, the prison is now surrounded by other buildings, including people’s homes. If you take the monorail that passes the prison, you can catch a glimpse of the crowded conditions inside.

Originally meant to hold 800 odd prisoners, Arthur Road Jail now houses close to 3,000 inmates. As you can imagine, conditions are very poor, with multiple inmates sharing cells. The overcrowding has led to gang violence, with prisoners now split into different sections depending on their affiliations.

Despite all this security is tight at Mumbai Central Prison and there are rarely any escape attempts. The walls surrounding the prison are extremely high and also electrified. The prison also has something called ‘anda cells.’ These egg-shaped cells are for the worst of the worst, with their shape allowing guards to monitor the prisoners from all angles.

8. Portlaoise Prison, Ireland

portlaoise prison

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This prison facility is known for housing members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Constructed during the 1830s, it is one of the oldest prisons in Ireland. Due to the type of prisoners kept at Portlaoise, security is paramount. Soldiers from the Irish army are employed to patrol the prison. There are also armed guards monitoring the prisoners 24/7. Equipped with rifles and even anti-aircraft machine guns, the chance of escape is slim.

It’s not just the guards prisoners have to watch out for. Portlaoise has high walls, numerous security cameras, and sensors installed throughout. The IRA members in the prison are kept away from the rest of the convicts in their own wing. Despite all the security, there have been several escapes from the prison over the years, although the last few attempts have ended unsuccessfully.

Portlaoise Prison has also been mired in controversy over the years. In 1946 Sean McCaughey died ten days after commencing a hunger strike to protest the conditions of the jail. During the 70s and 80s, the standard of living for prisoners was horrible. Many were also treated harshly by the guards. While conditions are much more favorable today, Portlaoise Prison still remains one of the most secure prisons in the world.

7. Fuchu Prison, Japan

fuchu prison

PhilC17/YouTube

Once home to Communist leaders before the end of World War II, Fuchu Prison is Japan’s largest prison. It holds both local and foreign prisoners, with a population of over 3,000 criminals. The cells are divided into four blocks (ordinary prisoners, foreign prisoners, mentally ill prisoners, and physically disabled or injured prisoners). While security is high – there has never been a successful escape in its history – conditions are much more modern than in some of the prisons on this list.

If you are ever unlucky enough to end up in this prison, expect to live by a rigid set of rules. Prison life in Fuchu is very structured. The average day is spent working (eight hours), with short breaks for meal times and exercise. A few hours of free time are allowed before bed. There is minimal talking, with inmates only allowed to speak in Japanese, which is a bummer for those who don’t speak the language. That said, prisoners are encouraged to study, with the Japanese language being one of the topics.

6. Camp Delta, Cuba

camp delta

AP Archive/YouTube

Otherwise known as Guantanamo Bay, this American prison encampment has a long and sordid history. It is a prison for suspected war criminals and terrorists. It was erected after 9/11 and is run by security forces made up of US Army military police and US Navy Masters-at-Arms. Prisoners held here are referred to as detainees and have fewer rights than other prisoners. This has led to widespread claims of abuse, with many detainees undergoing torture at the hands of the guards.

There are four main camps where detainees are held. They start off in Camp 3 where conditions are terrible. This is where prisoners who do not co-operate are also said to be tortured. If detainees are helpful and provide information, they are then moved to Camp 2 and Camp 1 where they have access to showers, exercise, and other amenities. Camp 4 is the final stop where the inmates are treated the most humanely. There are also several other disciplinary camps, with Camp 7 being the worst.

Escape is impossible. Those imprisoned at Camp Delta will most likely spend the rest of their lives there.

5. Tadmor Prison, Syria 

tadmor prison

World List/YouTube

Although it is no longer in use, Tadmor Military Prison deserves a spot on this list. During its times as a prison, Tadmor was known for its horrendous living conditions and poor treatment of inmates. Located in the middle of the desert far away from civilization, it held both political prisoners and everyday criminals. Torture was a daily occurrence and the basic rights of humans were null and void. High walls enclosed the prison while numerous guard towers had snipers at the ready. Military barricades also surrounded the prison, along with a minefield. Escape was not an option.

It was during President Hafez al-Assad’s 30-year rule between 1971 and 2000 when the prison was at its worse. Hafez al-Assad sent many of his political enemies to Tadmor. When an assassination attempt on Hafez al-Assad failed, he sent his armies inside Tadmor to meet out justice. Nobody quite knows how many people died, but it was believed between 500-1,000 prisoners, mainly those who were part of the Muslim Brotherhood who opposed Hafez al-Assad, were shot and killed.

Thankfully the prison was captured and destroyed by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in May 2015. While it no longer exists, the psychological damage done to those who survived their time in Tadmor will never fade.

4. Pelican Bay State Prison, United States

pelican bay state prison

KQED News/YouTube

Forget maximum security, Pelican Bay State Prison is a supermax facility home to some of the most notorious criminals in California. The most violent crims do their time here, with 40% of those incarcerated serving life sentences. There are a number of different buildings holding prisoners. Some allow inmates to interact with each other, while others require prisoners to be locked down for 23 out of 24 hours a day. There are no windows in many of the cells and electric fences surround the perimeter.

There is an area known as the Security Housing Unit where guards don’t even have to interact with the inmates. The safety of every prison guard is paramount. In this section they are stationed in a booth surrounding the cells where they can control everything.

Pelican Bay has held some of America’s most talked-about prisoners since opening in 1989. Cult leader Charles Manson, record producer Marion ‘Suge’ Knight, Aryan Brotherhood member Robert Walter Scully, and Hugo Pinell, who attempted to flee San Quentin State Prison in a botched escape, have all served time there.

3. Penal Colony No. 6, Russia

penal colony no. 6

AP Archive/YouTube

Nicknamed Black Dolphin Prison due to the statue of a dolphin out front, this prison holds Russia’s worst lawbreakers. One of the oldest prisons in Russia, Penal Colony No. 6 only holds those serving life sentences. Murders, rapists, gang members, serial killers, and terrorists are the types of people you find here. Even the cannibal Vladimir Nikolayev is spending his remaining years here.

Prisoners live in cramped cells that are surrounded by another cell, adding an extra layer of security. Inmates pretty much live in solitary confinement. There are no cells on the ground floor and there is 24-hour video surveillance. Guards patrol the prison every 15 minutes and prisoners are blindfolded when moved about the prison so they can never memorize the layout.

2. La Sante Prison, France

la sante prison

Geographics/YouTube

La Sante Prison is one of three main jails in Paris, France. It is known as the inescapable prison. Even though it is located in the heart of Paris, its architect, Joseph Auguste Émile Vaudremer, designed the prison so that once you are inside, you are trapped forever. As contact with the outside world is minimal, La Sante Prison is like its own little world. Bribery, assaults, and territory wars are the norm, with many reports on the prison showing it in a negative light.

What is also notable about the prison is the VIP section. A certain wing of the prison is reserved for those from Paris’ elite social circles. These inmates are treated much better than everyone else. They get special treatment and have much more of an easier time in prison.

1. ADX Florence, United States

adx florence prison

Agent Knowledge/YouTube

It should come as no surprise that the most secure prison in the world can be found in the United States. ADX Florence is a supermax prison that only opened in 1994. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ is built into the side of a mountain and features a perimeter with razor wire and patrolling guard dogs. Inside the facility there are motion detectors, hidden cameras, and 1,4000 remote-controlled doors.

Although it only houses 343 inmates, these criminals are high-profile spies, whistleblowers, and other nefarious types who pose a national security risk. They are kept in their cells for 23 hours a day and away from other inmates. Cells are made from stainless steel and soundproof. Inmates are observed 24/7 by cameras and prison staff.

There are some very infamous criminals currently serving at ADX Supermax: Larry Hoover, leader of the Gangster Disciples, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is responsible for the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui is also an inmate serving a life sentence.

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