The concept of human imprisonment is one that has courted our species through a number of sociological ages. As the destination of all who find themselves on the negative end of the many justice systems which have acted to ultimately govern each and every human society up until this point, prisons play a pivotal role in said systems. Whilst evolving in their own right over the course of the millennia’s, prisons have also grown to fill a position which crosses both traditional culture and popular culture. The subject of countless novellas, movies and TV shows, prisons are a concept all too familiar to most people. Though there are an uncountable amount of prisoner facilities in our beautiful world, there are some the names of which are rather widely known, or at least should be. This list seeks to take you on a whistle-stop tour of ten such facilities, educating and entertaining simultaneously.
10. HMS Belmarsh
HM, or ‘her Majesties’ Prison Belmarsh is a ‘category A’ men’s prison located in Greenwich, South East London. Though only active as a high security prison since 1991, the facility has grown famous in the UK as well as further afield. Housing some of Britain’s most notorious and revered criminals during its two decades, Belmarsh’s current population stands around the 1,000 mark. As well gaining a reputation for housing such notorious offenders as Charles Bronson and Ronnie Biggs, Belmarsh is also noted for its previous reputation as the ‘British Guantanamo’, due to its use for the detainment of untried ‘terror charge’ prisoners in the early 2000’s following 9/11.
9. Terre Haute Federal Correction Complex
Located in the city of Terra Haute in Vigo County, Western Indiana, this facility first opened in 1940. Covering all three security classifications, high, medium and minimum, the complex is all-male and comprises of two separate facilities. Namely, the Federal Correction Institution (FCI), Terra Haute and the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, each facility serves a quite separate function. The former is a medium security branch intended for the holding of inmates in need of particular monitoring whilst the latter is predominantly home to death row inmates. The combined population of the facilities which comprise the Terre Haute complex is around 3,000.
8. Tadmor Military Prison
Originally constructed as a barracks by the French Mandateforces in the early 20th century, today Tadmor Military Prison is one of the most renowned facilities of its kind on the face of our planet. Located approximately 200 kilometres north east of the Syrian capital Damascus, Tadmor made a name for itself in the decades following its first use as an incarceration facility as a result of typically harsh conditions, as well as leniency with the likes of human rights, torture and even execution. Though closed in 2001 following a string of political and religious atrocities, Tadmor was reopened in 2011 to facilitate the detainment of prisoners linked to the ‘Arab Spring’.
7. Camp Delta
Camp Delta is the name given to the detainment centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Notorious world over for its uses in the incarceration of prolific figures carrying a high terror risk, as well as those apprehended in current war zones, the camp has gained an international reputation (rather unfortunately) as one of the most symbolic institutions of our times. Constructed during the spring of 2002, Camp Delta is divided, much like any other US prison, into several facilities intended for inmates of certain need or categorization. Due to its location on international soil, Camp Delta has played host to some rather questionable occurrences involving the human rights of its prisoners, but that’s another story for another day.
6. ADX Florence
Opening in 1994, United State Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) is located to the south of Florence, Colorado. Carrying the status of a ‘supermax’, or super maximum security prison, ADX Florence is a rather well known place, having become known colloquially as the ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’. Housing some 439 male prisoners, the facility is home to those deemed too dangerous for detainment in the countries other high security prisons, making this a very tight ship indeed. There are some six levels of security within ADX Florence, all of which are pretty severe and see most inmates contained separately at all times. The prisoners populating the facility range in terms of crimes committed, and whilst there are a number of notable international and domestic ‘terrorists’ detained within, the prison also hosts numerous prolific organized crime gang members and Mafioso’s.
5. Qincheng Prison
Built in the late 1950’s, Qincheng Prison is a stark reminder of China’s turbulent political history. Acting to house a large amount of political prisoners, many of whom were participants in the Chinese Democracy Movement of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the prison is located in the Changping District in the northwest of Beijing. A maximum security facility, Qincheng was built with aid from the Soviet Union and was originally used in the detainment of Kuomintang ‘war criminals’ as a result of their nationalist action against the Communist government. Qincheng is notorious as a result of both its huge structural and human security, as well as its geographical integrity. Not only is the prison manned by a team of some 5,000 security personnel and built to a very high spec (boasting one of the highest watchtowers in the world), but is situated several thousand feet above sea level, and is, as a result, surrounded on all sounds by treacherous valleys.
4. Alcatraz Island
Featuring this prison may be regarded as a slight tweak of the rules; however what kind of self-respecting list looking into the world’s most notable high security prisons would emit the famous Alcatraz Island? Located in the San Francisco Bay, some two and a half kilometres offshore from San Francisco, California, Alcatraz Island was first built upon in the 1860’s. Originally, a lighthouse was built on the island, as well as a small military fortification and a subsequent prison. This initial facility was used exclusively in the detainment of military prisoners and remained fairly un-notable until it was taken over by the Federal Government in 1933. For the next 30 years, the island would go on to operate as a Federal Prison facility, becoming famous for its supermax security status as well as its celebrity inmates. Famous prohibition era gangsters from Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly to political prisoners such as Rafael Cancel Miranda all called Alcatraz home before it shut down in 1963. Today, the Island remains world famous as an American landmark, and draws an unbelievable amount of visitors each and every year.
3. Fuchu Prison
Not a whole lot is known about this Japanese high security facility; however its reputation for flawless security exists nonetheless. Located in the city of Fuchu, a western region of the Tokyo metropolis, the prison is active in the detainment of some of Japans most notorious criminals. Though a nation known for its somewhat liberal approach when it comes to the conditioning of criminals, there have been several reports from former detainees, as well as foreign journalists, which brand the prison as one of considerable brutality. The security systems in place within the facility are known to be some of the most advanced in the world, as a result- successful escapes are a non-existent occurrence at Fuchu Prison.
2. La Sante Prison
Located within the 14tharrondissement of the French nation’s capital city, Paris, La Santé Prison was constructed in 1867. A formidable structure, both aesthetically speaking and literally, La Santé’ has gained an international reputation as one of the most secure prisoner facilities on the face of the planet. Since its inauguration, La Santé has been home to all manner of high security prisoners, many of which are reflective of Frances various international conflicts and strife’s during this time. During the Second World War, the occupying Germans used the prison for the detainment of members of the domestic resistance, and pretty much anyone who spoke or acted out against the occupation. Due to its clever architecture, La Santé’ is all but fully immune from prisoner breakout, despite its location in the heart of Paris, with numerous failed attempts attracting international media attention over the years.
1. Arthur Road
Built in 1926, Arthurs Road Jail or Mumbai Central Prison as it is also widely known; is both the oldest and the largest prisoner detainment facility in the western Indian city of Mumbai, formerly Bombay. Spreading across some 2 acres of land and possessing a maximum capacity of 1,000 inmates, Arthur Road is currently home to an estimated 2,000 men. As a result, conditions within the facility are understandably squalid, with overpopulation contributing to not just inappropriate living space and human rights infringements but to the spread of disease through lack of sanitation and medical care. The jail is one of the most feared in all of India as a result of this, not to mention its reputation as a completely unbreachable compound. No-one has ever been known to have successfully escaped from Arthur Road, and as a facility serving the fourth most populous area on Earth, conditions are set to worsen.
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