Prisons, like many important architectural establishments say a lot about the culture, behavior and practices of a country. Prisons are also considered important landmarks and like city halls and museums, prisons can also show the heritage of a nation— just on a slightly grimmer note. You can only imagine the diversity of every prison in the world as they are set to adapt to the traditions, way of living and culture of every country and its people— yet out of all the prisons in the world, there are some that are simply extraordinary; here are 10 of the world’s most interesting prisons.
1. STYRIA, AUSTRIA: Justizzentrum Leoben
Justice Center Leoben is one of the most controversial prisons in the world. There are many who protest that this state of the art facility is too much of a luxury for prisoners, yet there are also some who say that it was specifically designed that way as a form of psychological torture for its inmates. This prison complex was designed by Architect Joseph Hohensinn and was completed in 2004. This complex is home to 205 inmates (who are probably confused if they’re in prison or a 5 star hotel) and has high frame glass windows, spacious corridors, gardens, elegant minimalist bedrooms– and also razor wires on every ceiling and bars on every windows.
2. La Paz, Bolivia: El Penal de San Pedro
Photo: Danielle Pereira
El Penal de San Pedro or St. Peter’s Prison, located in La Paz, Bolivia is famous for having a simulation of a small community behind bars. Each prisoner have to buy their own cells, and the condition of these cells range from high class luxury facilities with private bathrooms, cable TV, personal kitchen and a Jacuzzi, shared with4x4 common cells where they can stay for the duration of their sentence. There are many jobs and even businesses available inside the prison, a community including families and absolutely no guards.
3. OSLO, NORWAY: Bastøy Prison
Photo: astrid westvang
Bastoy Prison is known as the world’s first ecological prison. This prison located in Bastoy Island, looks more like a farming community with cozy cabins and farm lands for prisoners to raise farm animals and tend to the land. They even get keys to their own rooms and cabins. There are no death sentences or life imprisonment for prisoners in Norway. Most of the time, the most notorious prisoners serve the last years of their sentences in Bastoy island as the last leg of their rehabilitation. It is said to be like the “nice holiday farm version” of Alcatraz.
4. LIMA, PERU: Canto Grande Prison
This prison is also known as the “Shining Path” prison for the same reason it is on this list; because it is run by its own prisoners, majority of which are members of the “Shining Path” crime group. Yes, this prison is run by its own inmates like the prisons shown in movies and series like The Dark Knight Rises and Prison Break. This prison is home to 100 women and 340 men, all members of the Shining Path communist group. They have managed to maintain order and safety within the prison walls and educated all their members with the teachings of Marx, Lenin, and Mao.
5. VOLTERRA, ITALY: Fortezza Medicea Prison
Photo: John Menard
This beautiful fortress established in 1474 used to be just a regular prison until 2006, when the prison’s administration opened a restaurant inside the prison using the inmates as its staff for their rehabilitation program. It immediately became one of the most famous restaurants in Italy and a major tourist destination for Volterra, but booking a table is not as easy as calling it in. The prison admin will have to do a thorough background check for all clients who wish to dine in the prison and there are necessary precautions like plastic cutleries in the restaurant.
6. SAN FRANCISCO, USA: Alcatraz
This is one of only 2 prisons in this list that are no longer used as prisons, they are now tourist attractions. Alcatraz is the world’s most famous prison and is situated in Alcatraz Island a mile offshore from San Francisco bay, California. This prison has been the subject of many fictional stories as well as urban legends mostly stemming from its reputation as “The Evil Island.”It has not been used as a prison or a detention center since 1972. Up to this day, Alcatraz serves as an important national historic landmark and recreation area for San Francisco, California.
7. MARSEILLE, FRANCE: Château d'If
Photo: Jean-Claude MOUTON
Like Alcatraz, Château d'If is now also a national historical landmark and one of the major tourist spots in the south of France. Château d'If has been made popular as the setting of Alexander Dumas’ novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” and has also been the place of incarceration for France’s most notable prisoners such as Chevalier de Lorraine and Gaston Crémieux.
8. CEBU, PHILIPPINES: Cebu Provincial Prison
Photo: sandy gabutin
Cebu prison in the Philippines is one of the most famous prisons in pop-culture due to their extra ordinary rehabilitation program for their inmates. They are known as the “dancing inmates” and became a global youtube sensation for their performance of Michael Jackson’s thriller in the prison courtyard. Their global popularity has led to several generous donations from their youtube fans and has been used to progressively improve their living conditions in jail.
9. HALDEN, NORWAY: Halden Prison
Halden prison is known as the most humane prisons in the world, and also one of the most architecturally beautiful modern buildings in Norway. This prison, designed by Erik Møller, can hold up to 252 prisoners and has programs such as cooking, wall climbing, and music classes for rehabilitations.
10. MADRID, SPAIN: Aranjuez Prison
This prison is known as one of the most luxurious prisons in the world. Aranjuez prison has 36 cell units specifically adapted for prisoners with families. The cells are designed to welcome little children and encourage them to get to know their imprisoned parents. The walls are designed with child friendly characters and there are even playgrounds for toddlers so they can freely bond with their parents while in jail.
Best Prisons in the World, Prisons Overseas, Unusual Prisons, Interesting Prisons