Although the concept of prison and imprisonment have been around for a very long time, there have always been variations in the ways criminals are imprisoned across cultures and throughout history. While almost all of the prisons in the world are wretched, overcrowded and inhumane with prisoners being treated ‘worse than animals,’ there are some prisons in the world known for being the exact opposite of that. Deviating entirely from the traditional method of punishment, here are ten of the world’s most comfortable luxurious prisons that will change the way you think about prisons.
1 Halden Prison: Halden, Norway
Halden prison (the second largest jail in Norway) is most often known as the most humane prison in the world because of its luxurious life which includes almost everything ranging from flat-screen televisions, designer furniture, mini-fridges and en suite bathrooms for prisoners. Half of the guards are females, and the guards often don’t carry guns to avoid unnecessary intimidation and social distance. During the day the inmates can enjoy various outdoor activities like rock climbing, basketball, jogging, or soccer. The idea behind this is that an occupied prisoner is less violent and is less likely to lash out at guards or prisoners. Though the prison system is too soft on the inmates and their designs this luxurious, Norway boasts some of the lowest rates of recidivism in the world.
2 San Pedro Prison: La Paz, Bolivia
San Pedro Prison located in La Paz, Bolivia has to be the strangest prison cell on the planet with the inmates’ families living alongside their criminal relatives. With over 2000 inmates residing in this prison cell, San Pedro prison is a town within itself or rather say a hotel with shops, market stalls, churches and restaurants run by inmates, their wives and children. Each of the two cells can vary from each other in terms of size, quality and location with the five-star apartment like cells accommodating the rich ones and the filthy one-star sections cramming as many as five-men in tiny hovels known as coffins.
The inmates in the cell not only have to pay for accommodation but also food, clothing, and medicine, and hence, they do a variety of jobs to survive. The prison also has a remarkably well-structured political system with each section having its designated high-ranking official. A fascinating part of this prison is that it is one of the most bizarre tourist attractions of the city. The English speaking inmates conducts the tour of San Pedro. The tour includes a visit to a different section of the cells, buying of handicrafts, cocaine, which is cheap, tasting the local cuisine at restaurants, or only a chat with inmates and their families.
3 Bastoy Prison: Bastoy, Norway
Located on Bastoy island, Norway, Bastoy Prison is regarded as the worlds nicest prison. The prison hosts 115 inmates who have their bedrooms, own clothes, and can visit the prison church, shop, and library. With no life sentence in Norway, the average sentence a prisoner gets here is eight months. The prisoners in Bastoy feed themselves apart from a meal of the day that is provided to them. In free time, the inmates can enjoy the sauna, horseback riding, go fishing, play football, or workout at the gym.
With this much facilities in prison, one can get confused whether Bastoy is a correctional facility or more of a holiday camp. Each inmate is given an allowance of 90$ a month, which they can use to buy food from the supermarket. The inmates additionally earn roughly eight dollars daily on a range of jobs that include growing food, taking care of horses, repairing bicycles, doing woodwork, and maintaining Bastoy Island’s facilities. Each inmate is also offered high-quality education and coaching programs to extend their skills. The reoffending rate in Bastoy is just 30%, the lowest among all the prisons in Europe.
4 Sollentuna Prison: Sollentuna, Sweden
Sollentuna prison located in Sweden has everything one could ask for. From private cells with comfortable furniture, attached bathrooms, gym, and TVs for recreation, this prison is undoubtedly one of its kind. The prisoners here can cook their own meals. Although prison authorities have cameras installed in every corner of the cell, they make sure the inmates feel they are at home.
In an interview, Nils Öberg the director-general of Sweden’s Prison said that prison is not for punishment in Sweden. With over 40% less reoffending rates as compared to most of the UK and other European countries, this rehabilitation method seems to be working in Sweden. The courts in Sweden do not simply categorize sentenced individuals as criminals; instead, they are considered as people who need to be assisted and helped.
5 Cebu Provincial Detention & Rehabilitation Center: Cebu, Philippines
This maximum security prison with a capacity of 1600 inmates is famous for its dancing inmates. In Cebu province, Philippines, the inmates perform dance routines as a part of their daily recreational activity. The program was initiated by Byron Garcia, a security consultant for Cebu’s Provincial government who saw it as a way to improve inmates behavior. Earlier, it just began as a fitness routine to keep the prisoners in shape, but now the inmates in prison have become a worldwide phenomenon with professional choreographers teaching them.
The dance routine is compulsory for all the inmates except for the elderly and infirm. Many of the performances are filmed and released online, making them a popular feature among fans and veritable online celebrities. The most viral video up till now is “Thriller” a rendition of Michael Jackson’s music video with more than 1.3 million followers downloading it.
6 Pondok Bambu Prison: Jakarta, Indonesia
Pondok prison is a woman’s prison in Indonesia that makes luxury rooms available for purchase to the rich ones while the poor inmates have to pay bribes to avoid beatings. The luxurious prison cells are fully equipped with air- conditioners, refrigerators, karaoke machines, and nail salons. The inmates in the cell can have the keys of the cell to themselves by bribing the prison authorities. The prison staff accepts bribes from inmates to renovate their cells with, among other things like coffee makers, microwave ovens, stereos, etc.
Several female inmates of Pondok Bambu jail in East Jakarta create batik-patterned dresses for dolls via the Batik Barbie coaching program that trains them to create dresses from Batik garments. Socio-entrepreneur Lusi Efriani is the program initiator. Pondok Bambu penitentiary chief Sri Susilarti aforementioned the program can help in empowering the inmates. Besides these, the inmates have created numerous products, including handstitched purses and female Muslim prayer cloaks.
7 Justice Center Leoben: Styria, Austria
Justice center Leoben located in Styria, Austria is a court and prison complex which holds over 205 inmates. Each inmate in the center has a single cell with a shared kitchen and private bathroom areas. They are also free to move around as they please through their cells and also shared places. The prisoners do not wear uniforms, an exercise in the gym area, play in the outdoor recreation area, and cook dinner using metal utensils.
Two inscriptions within the prison’s perimeter read: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” The jail was designed by world-renowned architect, Joseph Hohensinn in 2004. There are three courtyards and outdoor communal areas that are enclosed by bars. The prison boasts about having the floor to ceiling windows allowing inmates to see the outdoors. The windows also open up to balconies on some of the levels.
8 Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Send: Surrey, England
Her Majesty’s prison Send in Surrey, England is a closed- training prison for women with a higher proportion of prisoners serving life, mostly for murder, than any other women’s jail. The prison holds up to 282 high-risk offenders who are provided with TVs, comfortable beds with duvets, gym, etc. all with the focus that they would turn in to an ideal citizen once they go out. There is also a unique 40-bed therapeutic unit for recovering drug addicts. The inmates in the cell can have beauty treatment/ cosmeticians classes so that they can support themselves once they are out of prison. Prisoners in Send are expected to work full time, to learn a trade that will lead to a job outside and to come to terms with the seriousness of their crimes.
9 Aranjuez Prison: Aranjuez, Spain
Aranjuez jail in Spain lets kids stay with their imprisoned loved one. The prison has 36 cell units for families equipped with cribs, Disney characters on the walls, and a kids’ play area all with the idea that the kids will bond with their jailed parents while young enough to not grasp the truth of imprisonment, and for inmates seeking rehabilitation to learn parenting skills. The prison contains almost everything ranging from a bed, couch and fascinating combination shower and toilet and a conference hall too so that the kids do miss out on anything.
The children can only stay until age three in the cell. After that, they are moved out and put with relatives or with social services, and their parents return to normal cells. Whereas it’s not a perfect situation to let children’s keep within the cell; however, the arrangement beats the pain of separation. Spanish authorities claim the family cells have been successful but acknowledge a child may suffer emotionally when separated from his or her parents. They have no intention to extend the program.
10 San Antonio Prison: San Antonio, Venezuela
San Antonia Prison, located on Margarita Island in Venezuela, looks like any other jail on the outside, but when you go inside its more like a party club. The prison holds more than 2000 Venezuelans and foreigners with most of them inside for dealing with drugs. The prisoners can get anything from satellite, TVs, telephone to air conditioners arranged in their cell with cash. Prisoners smoke marijuana, and popular music fills the air. There’s even a cockfighting arena where inmates and visitors can place bets. Margarita Island is the originating point for drug shipments to the United States, Mexico, and the islands nearby. The inmate boss of the jail is Teófilo Rodriguez, a condemned drug dealer who, more or less, runs the place and has additional authority than jail guards. Prisoners barbecue meat while sipping liquor poolside and relax with their wives or girlfriends.