The Worst Prisons in the World

The idea of punishing individuals through confinement hasn't changed much in the last 2,000 or so years. And while it can be said that society moved forward on the path to humanity by discarding the old Lex Talionis (“an eye for an eye”) and replacing it with confinement, there have been few innovations in the prison system and, as we all know, no real evolution towards a more humane form of punishment. The last real attempts at innovation were carried out in the 17th and 18th centuries by England, France and Russia with their use of the penal colony. In order to get more bang for their buck in colonial times, England used Botany Bay, Australia, as its penal colony, and France used Devil’s Island and other territories. Russia has always had the tundra of Siberia as its backyard and that served well as its penal colony up to recent times. Real prison reform, however, was spearheaded by John Howard in the 18th century. Appalled by what he saw in the prisons of the day, Howard began a successful campaign to institute wide ranging reforms to the system, including that each prisoner should be in a separate cell, that staff should be professional and paid by the government, that outside inspection of prisons should be imposed, and that prisoners should be provided with a healthy diet and reasonable living conditions. Thus the “correctional facility” was born. One can only imagine what prisons were like before Howard’s reforms. We only hear about the awful conditions of today’s prisons. How true is this? Here are some of the worst prisons in the world.

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