Photo Series Explores What Prison Cells Look Like Around The World


According to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, over 10.35 million individuals are being held in prisons around the world, either as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners or having been convicted and sentenced.

In comparison to the year 2000, the total number of women serving time has increased about 50% while the male prison population has grown by about 18%. But prison population rates vary considerably all around the globe. For instance, the United States have 698 inmates for every 100,000 citizens while Denmark has 61. And there are more differences, too. A prisoner in one place might have access to musical instruments and video games but might be fighting over a roll of toilet paper in another.

We have collected photos of cells from across the world to show how different countries treat their criminals, and the contrast is eye-opening. The prison cells in this list vary from low security to max security, and while they can’t be all compared directly, it gives us a pretty good sense how different countries deal with criminals. It might be due to economic reasons or the way societies value life, but if you found the information above a bit grey, the images below will definitely grab everyone’s attention.

What do you think?

  1. 1 Aranjuez Prison, Aranjuez, Spain

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    Spain's Aranjuez Prison lets parents and children stay with their incarcerated family members. With Disney characters on the walls, a nursery, and a playground, the goal is to prevent kids from realizing, as long as possible, that a parent is behind bars

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  2. 2 Bastøy Prison, Horten, Norway

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    Bastøy prison is the largest low-security prison in Norway. The prison is located at Bastøy island in the Oslo Fiord, belonging to Horten municipality. The prison uses the whole island, but the northern part with the beach Nordbukta is defined as open to the public. The prison is organized as a small local community with about 80 buildings, roads, beach zones, cultural landscape, football field, agricultural land and forest. In addition to the prison functions, there is a shop, library, information office, health services, church, school, NAV (government social services), dock, ferry service (with its own shipping agency) and a lighthouse with facilities to let for smaller meetings and seminars. On Bastoy prison island, the prisoners, some of whom are murderers and rapists, live in conditions that critics brand 'cushy' and 'luxurious'. Yet it has by far the lowest reoffending rate in Europe

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  3. 3 San Diego Medium-Security Women’s Prison, Cartagena, Colombia

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    Inmates at the San Diego Women’s Prison in Cartagena get a taste of freedom every night as they morph into cooks, waitresses and dishwashers at “Interno,” a colorful restaurant now open in one of the facility’s indoor patios. 25 of the nearly 180 inmates housed here were selected as part of a program looking to help women near the end of their sentences transition back into society. Women at this low-security prison are serving time for crimes such as theft, drug trafficking and extortion.

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  4. 4 Otago Corrections Facility, Milburn, New Zealand

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    It has been dubbed the "Milton Hilton" - a place where prisoners can relax in ultimate luxury while they do their time. The Otago Corrections Facility in New Zealand looks more like a teenager's bedroom than a prison. There are health facilities and a library designed to keep people feeling like members of society.

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  5. 5 Halden Prison, Halden‎, Norway

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    Halden Prison is a maximum-security prison in Halden, Norway. It has three main units and receives prisoners from all over the world, but has no conventional security devices. The second-largest prison in Norway, it was established in 2010 with a focus on rehabilitation; its design simulates life outside the prison. Among other activities, sports and music are available to the prisoners, who interact with the unarmed staff to create a sense of community. Praised for its humane conditions, Halden Prison has received the Arnstein Arneberg Award for its interior design in 2010 and been the subject of a documentary, but has also received criticism for being too liberal.

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  6. 6 Norgerhaven Prison, Veenhuizen, Netherlands

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    Inmates at the Norgerhaven prison in Veenhuizen, Netherlands, have a bed, furniture, a refrigerator, and a TV in their cells, as well as a private bathroom. The crime rates in the Netherlands are so low, that they faced an “undercrowding” crisis. To solve this “problem”, the country struck a deal with Norway in 2015, to take on their prison overflow. Now part of Norwegian inmates serve their sentences in Norgerhaven.

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  7. 7 HMP Addiewell, Lothian, Scotland

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    HMP Addiewell is a learning prison, where residents can address their offending behaviour and the circumstances which led to their imprisonment through Purposeful Activity. Purposeful activities include education, counseling and work. Nature and family contact whilst in prison is also a fundamental element of the rehabilitation process.

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  8. 8 Champ-Dollon Prison, Geneva, Switzerland

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    Opened in 1977, the main function of Geneva’s Champ-Dollon prison is to hold prisoners before trial and sentencing. The numbers of inmates is constantly increasing, which has lead to a chronic problem of overcrowding. 115 different nationalities were represented in the prison in 2010 with just 7.2% Swiss.

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  9. 9 Oslo's Skien Prison, Oslo, Norway

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    Prisons in Norway are meant to mimic outside conditions as much as possible to prepare inmates to reenter society. At Oslo's Skien prison, inmates have private bathrooms, a TV, video games and access to a gym and yard. Mass murderer Anders Breivik is currently serving his 21 year sentence there. He tried to sue the state over "cruel" conditions in 2016, however, this man’s prison life would seem luxurious to most people - his cell has three rooms, "one for living, one for studying, and a third for physical exercise — as well as a television, a computer without internet access and a game console. He is able to prepare his own food and do his own laundry.”

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  10. 10 UN Detention Unit, Outside The Hague, Netherlands

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    The United Nations Detention Unit (UNDU) is a UN-administered jail. It was established in 1993 as part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The facility now serves as the International Criminal Court detention centre, where individuals are prosecuted for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The jail houses the detained suspects during their trial and those convicted by the court serving prison sentences. Each cell has it's own toilet and washing area. Inmates have access to a gym and a PE instructor, they can also cook for themselves. A personal computer is provided in each cell, where inmates can view material on their cases.

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