5 Of The World’s Weirdest Prisons

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by Jordan Breeding

At this point, we’ve almost entirely prepared you for your inevitable trip to the pen. We’ve explained how to fool guards using door signs made from peanut butter, what ingredients you’ll need for prison nachos, and why you aren’t allowed to suck on any hard ... candy. Apparently, prison is just a big kitchen you’re not allowed to leave.

The only thing left to decide on is in which prison to serve out your well-deserved sentence. Should it be a prison that rehabilitates inmates using the healing powers of dance, or somewhere even weirder? How about ...


A Four-Star Restaurant Where The Entire Waitstaff Are Convicted Criminals

So you’re the kind of criminal with taste. Specifically, you’ve got a taste for pasta, and now the police have traced the noodle droppings from your latest heist right to your front door. Although the possibility of a life behind bars terrifies you, nothing about prison is more frightening than a sudden lack of access to Olive Garden. Thankfully, there is hope.

The Fortezza Medicea is an Italian fortress built sometime in the 13th century. Since the Mongol hordes aren’t as much of a threat these days, the former stronghold has been converted into what every third building in Italy is already: a fancy restaurant. Oh, it’s also a prison for violent criminals and drug traffickers. And it’s just delicious!

Eight times per year, Fortezza Medicea opens its gates to allow in curious foodies striving for a novel eating experience. Guests are forced to undergo extensive background checks, give up their phones, pass through metal detectors, and agree to saw at their meals with plastic utensils. But if they’re willing to make all those concessions, diners are treated to a high quality, authentic Italian meal-- with the added benefit of being entirely cooked and served by men who have committed crimes such as “aggravated murder” which somehow sounds worse than the regular kind. You may even be beautifully serenaded by a pianist who also killed a guy.

Do you guys know Stab Your Face Off by John Mayer?

It costs $50 a plate for the chance to dine dangerously, but the majority of the money goes to charity, and the whole point is actually rehabilitation. Prisoners train all throughout the year with a professional chef, and over 30 of these men have gone on to work in bona fide Italian restaurants that don’t double as correctional facilities. One guy even owns his own restaurant, though we’d still recommend at least sniffing the wine before chugging it.

A Prison For The Whole Family

Just because you’ve committed a crime doesn’t mean you’re not one to fall in love and start popping out babies. In the immortal words of 30 Rock’s Tracy Jordan, “Freaky Deakies need love too.” But that said, many parents struggle to balance their home and work lives, and that goes double when their day job is slinging dope or shivving snitches. That’s where the Spanish prison, Aranjuez, comes in.

For convicted criminals with children under the age of three, Aranjuez offers “five-star cells” stocked with cribs, kid’s toys, and walls plastered with Disney characters. The kids themselves are able to attend nursery school, ride tricycles, and basically just be normal little kids. Well, normal little kids that literally grow up inside prison. They’re mostly unaware of what’s going on, although some of the kids, like two-year-old Victor Manuel Lozano, reportedly hate going back behind bars every night. That seems reasonable.

Goodnight. Don't let the bed thugs bite!

Moms and dads are kept together whenever possible, and the goal is to teach them parenting and life skills in the hopes they’ll be able to normally readjust to society upon release. If their sentence isn’t concluded once the kids grow older than three, they’re handed over to the state or relatives, and the parents will get stuck back in a normal, boring cell with nothing but pictures of Norm of the North. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to parents “cheating” by trying to get pregnant again before their current kid gets too old. Because Aranjuez is a super cush place to spend your incarceration, and because Norm of the North is really just the worst.

Although the whole set up sounds insane, and few people think it’s a perfect situation, a great deal of research points to the importance of bonding with your parents in the first three years of your life. Spanish officials believe it’s important to help keep families together as much as possible. Even if it means imprisoning an infant.

An Entire Prison City

Generally speaking, self-contained prison ecosystems exist only in the minds of writers. Also, in space, apparently. They don’t make sense in the real world, because what’s the point of a prison city or planet if it’s just like normal life except with more tattoos? How will anybody be appropriately punished for their crimes (which is kind of a new idea, by the way) if they’re running society themselves? Well, you should ask the citizens of San Pedro Prison in Bolivia.

In the middle of the Bolivian city La Paz, there exists an entirely self-sufficient prison that’s almost indistinguishable from the real world. Incoming inmates are expected to purchase real-estate in town, to get a job (possibly at the local cocaine factory -- seriously), and even send their kids to the local prison school. Hell, one inmate complained that he had to pay his own taxi fare just to get to the prison.

This is also where they recruit for the Chicago Bears.

Authorities are so hands-off that visitors from all over the world would come to (illegally) tour the strange prison, sometimes for weeks at a time. They literally pay to come in and party with a bunch of hardened criminals. When the local press got hold of some footage of these guests, they were concerned less with the safety of visitors (or the criminals making money off them) and more worried that the police were corrupt and might steal the money from the criminals. The criminals who were, again, serving sentences for committing crimes.

As the prison grows in notoriety, so have the calls to shut the place down. It still hasn’t happened, partially because it’s hard to just “close” an entire city and partially because Bolivia isn’t exactly known for being above corruption.

The Tiniest Prison Ever

While American prisons have become so full that a few states started just letting people go and hoping for the best, the little British island of Sark is home to the world’s smallest prison. Sark only has a population of approximately 500 people (and dwindling) so unless everybody was a criminal and Sark a real-world Crematoria (or San Pedro Prison), they probably don’t need a very large jail. It still feels a little ridiculous that the prison they do have only holds two people, though.

Sark’s prison was built in the 16th century as a way to bolster the island’s defenses against another invasion after the fall of the Spanish Armada. Sark needed somewhere to hold foreign prisoners they couldn’t walk away from, so they built this tiny shack with two cells. You know, in the event of enemy attack from exactly two soldiers. For actual prisoners, the authorities usually just stuck people in the stocks and let all the other citizens throw random crap at them. Other times, they’d literally make the accused go sit on the “Penance Bench.”

We'd store the bikes inside, but right now, its standing room only.

As examples of some of the hard-ass crime they’ve dealt with over the years, the prison’s official website details one of the earliest criminals they ever had to incarcerate: a young girl who stole a handkerchief. For her crimes against humanity, the maid was to be locked up for three days, but because she was super nervous, they left the door to the cell open and she hung out with a bunch of local women while they knitted and chatted. Thankfully, the harsh punishment caused the girl to turn from her life of crime.

Unsurprisingly, this two-criminal prison is managed by a two-bobby police force: a Constable and a “Vingtenier” who serves as the Assistant Constable. They’re typically elected, and they probably have the easiest job on the entire island. That is, until the Spanish attack again.

A Jail That's Nicer Than Most Apartments

When thinking about places you might enjoy being jailed, Indonesia likely isn’t very high on that list. Their prisons boast severe overcrowding, rampant drug use, and abounding corruption. But beyond that, they’re great. Some cells have flat-screen TVs, king-sized beds, and in-room beauty treatments ... as long as you’re rich.

Will you be requiring turndown service?

An investigation from back in 2010 found that while poor Indonesian prisoners wallowed in squalor, rich prisoners were probably better off than most of our readers. Besides those things listed above, rich prisoners had daily maids and even access to a freaking karaoke suite area. If they have the money and the desire, it’s even possible to order hookers. Because nothing says rehab like crabs. One criminal was even allowed to just go ahead and drop tens of thousands of dollars to improve his living quarters like it was his personal apartment. Other inmates have straight up purchased their way out of prison.

The problem, obviously, is that prisons in Indonesia are ridiculously corrupt. Because of the relatively low pay for their workers, guards and wardens will jump at any chance to make a quick buck ... although the pain of listening to people belt out their favorite karaoke tunes can’t possibly be worth whatever they’re paying them.

Like this article? Check out 5 Mundane Items That Are Contraband In Prison (And Why)and The 6 Craziest Things People Have Made In Prison.

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