Just imagine it, your first day in prison.
You’re ushered to a cell, except on the walk there, prison isn’t what you expected.
There are no people shouting at you, no intimidation being vented from two-man cells, but what
you do feel around you is a sense of chaos.
When you arrive at the cell the guy who runs that place tells you where you’ll be sleeping.
To your surprise, you’ll be packed in head-to-toe with scores of other men.
Thankfully you’re not next to the toilet, which is a hole in the ground in the far corner.
During the night as the mosquitoes buzz and you continually wipe the sweat from your face,
you need that hole in the ground, which will mean carefully stepping over many men, people
you really don’t want to stand on.
This is the experience of many people who have found themselves locked-up in a country
criticized for its prison conditions.
Certain prison systems around the world are overwhelmed, and overcrowding such as this
is not uncommon in many countries.
If you’ve read the ex-con, locked up abroad literature, you’ll know that many foreigners
end-up getting moved to a less packed cell, and in some prisons there is always the opportunity
to pay your way to a better place, where you won’t have to sleep crammed-in like a sardine.
Some of those writers will tell you that the first day in a place like that is the worst,
but most people generally work their way through it.
There have also been a few convicts that got locked-up abroad that got repatriated, only
they preferred the rundown prison in a developing country, despite the overcrowding, the rats,
the mosquitoes and dreaded centipedes.
That’s exactly what one British man who’d been locked-up in Thailand’s Klong Prem
He preferred the chaos to the 23-hour lockdown.
Generally in prisons where people sleep in packed cells most of the day they are free
to walk around a fairly large prison yard, play sports, cook, work, even build huts and
gardens in some places.
Not all people prefer that, though, we guess it depends on personality and how things went
Ok, so now let’s have a look at some of these prisons where men sleep almost on top
of each other.
The last places on this list we imagine would not be preferred over any prison system.
Let’s first put some things into perspective.
Most people know that the United States has the largest prison population in the world,
and also imprisons more of its citizens than any other country.
According to Statistica, in 2019 the U.S. has locked up 655 people for every 100,000
Next was El Salvador at 618 per 100,000 and after that Thailand at 558 per 100,000.
Prison policy by the way put the U.S. number at 698 per 100,000, adding that just under
2.3 million Americans are behind bars, which is a significant amount of the population.
U.S prisons have their fair share of problems, notably gang violence, but are people living
100 to a cell?
The answer is no, they are not.
While many prisons in the U.S. report that they are over capacity, that doesn’t mean
men are packed into cells in such a way they can barely turn over during the night.
In fact, according to the World Prison Brief, the USA is only the 113th most overcrowded
prison system in the entire world.
You might face violence daily, eat tasteless food, are sometimes locked-down for 23-hours
a day, but you will no doubt get a bed, clean sheets, and some snacks to buy from the prison
That means the prison store, for all of you who don’t watch prison shows on TV.
So, where are the most overcrowded places?
Well, we’ll start with the bad, move on to the very bad and finish with the worst.
Benin According to prison data, Benin has a prison
capacity at 240 percent.
Let’s bear in mind now that the USA is at almost 104 percent.
This country only locks up around 70 people per 100,000 people, but it seems those that
are behind bars don’t have much room.
The website Prison Insider tells us that prisoners in this small West African nation face not
only overcrowding problems, but getting clean water isn’t easy and neither is getting
The website writes, “The majority of prisoners sleep on the floor, head to feet, unable to
Because of this, the spread of disease is a big issue, especially when lack of nutritious
food is also an issue.
Comoros The prison capacity of Comoros is 246.7 percent,
or it was when the statistics were published in 2018.
You might not have heard of this place, and we don’t blame you because it’s just a
small volcanic archipelago off East Africa.
The entire prison population is only 191 people, so you could hardly say Comoros should make
But it seems those that are banged-up behind bars don’t have much space.
In fact, it’s hard to find much information about prisons there, but a 2016 Human Rights
Report talked about severe overcrowding, malnutrition and a general lack of any rights for prisoners.
Bolivia Bolivia has a prison capacity at 253.9 percent,
and it locks up 156 people per 100,000 people.
In total, there are around 18,000 Bolivians behind bars.
We should say that different sources give different numbers, but they are all quite
close at least.
It depends on where the data comes from and when it was updated.
One report we found states that in many Bolivian prisons it’s the prisoners who have control,
and searches have revealed that some of those prisoners have guns inside the facility.
One recent search ended with seven dead inmates and 26 other inmates injured.
Reports state that violence is common and drugs are available throughout Bolivian prisons,
but tensions are usually high just because of terrible overcrowding.
Overcrowding is said to be at critical levels right now, and that’s mostly because there
are so many people locked up for narcotics-related offenses.
Sudan Sudan’s prison capacity is at 255.3 percent.
52 people per 100,000 are locked up in this Northeast African nation and in total that
means 21,000 prisoners.
The prisons here are old and decrepit, and reform is needed.
They are not only packed, but according to reports disease is rife, and prisoners have
to put up with poor sanitation and nothing close to anything resembling nutritious food.
Uganda Uganda has a prison capacity at 293.2 percent.
It locks up about 120 prisoners per 100,000 and in total there are around 48,000 prisoners.
According to a report published a while back, but still relevant today no doubt, about half
of the country’s prison population was still awaiting trial.
Many of those prisoners suffer from diseases, especially multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
Uganda has the second worst overcrowding problem in Africa, which reports have said has led
to a public health crisis.
Guatemala Next on the list is Guatemala, with a prison
capacity at 296.2 percent.
This country locks up around 141 people for every 100,000 people while the total prison
population there is 24,386.
Over the last ten years Guatemala's prison population has soared, and its said for every
space for one person there are six people.
Corruption is rife inside, so if you have money your time there will be better.
Many of the prisons are out of control, and it’s the people locked up who for the most
part run them.
As Prison Insider writes, it’s “gangs who decide what privileges and rights are
accorded to inmates, often in return for large sums of money.”
Another report says that prisoners are 12 times more likely to be killed inside prison
than on the outside, and it blames overcrowding for this.
It said the prison system in this country has completely collapsed, that it isn’t
really a prison system, but rather a place that contains criminals and allows chaos to
Some of those prisons the report said were merely headquarters for gangs, and they had
Zambia So, the winner, or should we say loser, for
Africa is Zambia.
We should also state that for some African nations there was no available data, so Zambia
might not be the worst.
It has a prison capacity rate at 303 percent.
In some prisons it’s reported that where one man should sleep there are 15 people.
They obviously meant a cell, not a patch of floor.
This has led to massive outbreaks of diseases, including tuberculosis and scabies.
Prisoners lack proper sanitation and the prison diet is terrible, which doesn’t help the
spread of disease.
Other reports state there have been issues with torture inside the prisons, and generally
prisoners being stripped of their human rights.
The Human Rights Commission has said prisoners are punished harshly, and many of those are
still awaiting trial.
One prisoner interviewed about his time in a Zambian prison said this: “The aftermath
of prison life still haunts me.
I would never wish anyone to experience it.
Prisons in Zambia are not fit for human habitation.”
Currently around 146 people per 100,000 Zambians deal with this kind of hell, and in total
that is 25,000 people.
El Salvador This Central American nation has a prison
capacity at 348.2 percent.
The country locks up 618 people per 100,000, so as we said at the beginning, it is second
behind the USA.
In total there are 38,714 people serving time behind bars in this nation.
Unlike some of the other nations on this list, there are many articles in the English-language
media on prison conditions here.
You won’t be surprised to hear that conditions are said to be harsh, if not brutal.
While many killings have happened on the streets of El Salvador, a lot of those people have
ended up in prison.
You’ll find these places full of gang members, such as those from the gangs Barrio 18 and
Some reports state that while the prison on the outside is guarded by the army, the guards
themselves are too scared to go inside.
It’s the prisoners that run things, and that doesn’t always mean everyday chaos.
The Guardian writes, “The prisoners have their own bakery, workshops making furniture
and toys, and even a rudimentary hospital that they staff themselves.”
Still, you can find other reports stating that life is hell, and you can see the photos.
Men packed into small spaces, virtually sat in piles like hamsters in a cage.
This has led to infections, the spread of numerous diseases, and some people spend 24
hours a day in their cells.
Other reports said it’s like something from the dark past, with men being given their
food through the bars right into their hands.
Apparently someone from El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office for Human Rights went inside
to have a look and was lost for words.
Yet other reports state that people are suffering from diseases and other health issues, but
have been denied any kind of treatment.
One prisoner in an interview said where he was imprisoned there was one bathroom for
350 inmates and it was clogged, so things, er, started to pile up.
One man had to sleep next to that bathroom, which was part of the house where the prisoners
And it just gets worse, with one prosecutor saying, “They are in subhuman conditions.
A total violation of their human rights and the law.”
Philippines We’ve already done one show on a packed
jail in this country, but that jail is not alone.
The Philippines is said to have a prison capacity at 436 percent, so these guys are even more
crammed together than the El Salvadorians if that sounds possible.
In this country around 179 people per 100,000 are locked up, and in total that is 188,278
So, how is it?
Well, there are various accounts, but one man from Hong Kong that was arrested on what
he called bogus drug charges, a police set-up, said it was as bad as you can imagine.
He says he was beaten-up by guards at New Bilibid Prison on the first day.
That’s the main prison in the country.
He said it was hell, and often saw fights and even people being murdered.
He has now written a book about his time there.
As for overcrowding, if you look at the photos it’s nothing short of amazing.
Prisoners in one place sleep on every bit of ground, including some folk on the stairs.
As one prisoner put it, “They cannot think straight.
It's so crowded.
Just the slightest of movements and you bump into something or someone.”
You have literally never seen so many people sleeping in one place so close together, with
the sight looking like it came from an apocalyptic movie, not something happening right now.
The media said in 2019 that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology of the Philippines
is trying to do something about the overcrowding, but it’s a big hill to climb.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s zero tolerance war on drugs has helped fill up
the prisons, but it’s said they were already overcrowded before he came into power.
Haiti Haiti claims the spot for number one with
a prison capacity at 454.4 percent.
In this country there are 96 people locked up per 100,000 and in total there are 10,512
You can watch news reports about these prisons, which all look like they are crumbling down,
with men pushed up against rusted bars.
Al Jazeera shows men sleeping back to back, with some malnourished inmates lying on makeshift
hospital beds looking like they have little time to live.
The cells themselves look something like abject poverty inside an old submarine.
Men walk around with plastic bowls, looking for water or food, pushed up against each
other in unimaginable squalor.
Many don’t get enough food according to the BBC and become very sick from malnutrition
It reports that in one prison alone 21 inmates died in the last month.
The BBC posted a picture of a dead man in the hallway covered in blankets, soon to be
taken away we expect.
One person who was allowed to make a documentary about one prison said, “Most of the diseases
and problems happen because of proximity and malnourishment.
You add stress to people’s situation and it leads to sickness.
Cholera spreads easily, as does TB and a lot of skin conditions.”
So, do you think you could survive in one of these places?
How do they compare to the prisons where you come from?
And if you are from one of these countries what have you heard about the prisons?
Tell us in the comments.
Also, be sure to check out our other video Most Horrible Prison Experiments On Humans
of All Time!
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See you next time.