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Harsh Justice: Comparing Prisons Around the World


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Comparing the World’s Prisons

At least 11 million people are sitting in prisons and detention centers around the world. And with the global population continuing to rise, prison population numbers are only going to swell in the coming decades. Let’s explore how justice is meted out around the world.
Residents incarcerated per 100,000
Afghanistan 76
Argentina 147
Australia 130
Azerbaijan 226
Belize 476
Bermuda 417
Chile 259
China 170
Cuba 510
Denmark 73
Egypt 71
El Salvador 425
Ethiopia 136
France 100
United Kingdom 132
Iran 284
Iraq 110
Ireland 89
Israel 225
Italy 105
Japan 51
Jordan 95
Kazakhstan 295
Kuwait 140
Libya 82
Mexico 210
North Korea 800
Pakistan 41
Russia 475
Rwanda 492
Saudi Arabia 162
South Africa 294
South Korea 99
Spain 146
Sweden 67
Turkey 184
Ukraine 288
United States 716
Vietnam 145
Death sentences imposed 2007-2012
Afghanistan 364
Argentina 0
Australia 0
Azerbaijan 0
Belize 0
Bermuda 0
Chile 0
China Thousands (at least 11051)
Cuba 0
Denmark 0
Egypt 704
El Salvador 0
Ethiopia 55
France 0
United Kingdom 0
Iran 156
Iraq 1420
Ireland 0
Israel 0
Italy 0
Japan 108
Jordan 67
Kazakhstan 0
Kuwait 31
Libya 0
Mexico 0
North Korea 105
Pakistan 1497
Russia 0
Rwanda 0
Saudi Arabia 54
South Africa 0
South Korea 13
Spain 0
Sweden 0
Turkey 0
Ukraine 0
United States 504
Vietnam 258
Note: Execution figures listed for North Korea, as many of the country’s executions take place without legal proceedings

Notorious Prisons

ADX (federal supermax), Florence, Colorado
Notable inmates:
Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
Shoe bomber Richard Reid
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols
According to a class-action lawsuit against the facility, “Many prisoners at ADX interminably wail, scream, and bang on the walls of their cells. Some mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils, and whatever other objects they can obtain.”
Diyarbakır Prison, Turkey
Can hold about 1,100 prisoners and is often overcrowded
Often referred to as having the most human rights violations per prisoner, the prison is said to be rife with physical and mental torture and sexual abuse. Inmates have attempted hunger strikes, taken their own lives and even set themselves on fire.
North Korea
Camp 22, northeast North Korea
770 square miles, holding 50,000 people at its peak of operations
Less a prison than a concentration camp, Camp 22 operators subjected inmates to extreme torture and human experimentation. Officially denied by the North Korean regime, Camp 22 is the most brutal of the country’s oppressive prison camps, though there are some indications the camp may have been closed in recent years.
Torture methods

  • Water torture: Prisoner stands on toes in a tank filled with water to his nose for 24 hours
  • Hanging torture: Prisoner stripped, hung upside down from the ceiling and beaten
  • Box-room-torture: Prisoner detained in tiny cell not large enough to stand or sit
  • Kneeling-torture: Prisoner forced to kneel and a wooden bar is inserted near his knee hollows to stop blood circulation.
  • Pigeon torture: Prisoner tied to wall with both hands at a height of about 2 feet and must crouch for many hours



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