9 Countries Where You Absolutely Do NOT Want to Land in Jail

The only time going to jail is fun is when you’re down to your last $47 and are about to land on Boardwalk. Other than that, it sucks -- no matter where you are. And as miserable as a night in the slammer in the US might be, imagine getting locked up in a foreign country. You don't need to have seen Brokendown Palace to know that's some scary sh*t.  

But which foreign prisons are the scariest? As in, maybe I shouldn't even visit that country AT ALL, just to play it safe. To find out, we identified those nations most commonly cited as having the world's worst prisons, threw in the ones with terrible overcrowding problems, and then cross-referenced them all against the World Justice Project's data on countries with the slowest, most corrupt, or just plain ass-backward legal systems. Excluding places you’d never go to unless the words “six-figure defense contract” were mentioned, we narrowed the list down to these nine countries.


This tiny African nation has a GDP that could barely buy the Dallas Cowboys, so it's no surprise that the criminal justice system lacks funding. If you get arrested, you may find yourself in the same boat as 90% of your fellow inmates; that is, in jail for several years awaiting trial. And a jail that's 300% over capacity, no less. In fact, the country's notorious Cotonou Prison now holds 2,400 inmates -- despite being built for only 400 -- and disease runs rampant throughout it.


Finding your country on a criminal justice ranking with Venezuela is kinda like landing on a list about obesity with Houston -- it’s just not the sort of company you want to keep. Bolivia ranks fifth-worst in the world in rule of law, meaning that if you get arrested there, calling Saul isn’t gonna do you a whole lot of good. We'd say get comfortable in that jail cell, but since Bolivia’s prisons are over-capacity by 269%, that's probably not going to be possible.


China’s a country about as well known for its human rights as it is for its basketball. Yao Ming aside, of course. It's got the seventh-worst legal system in the world, and is still notorious for throwing political dissidents in jail. While general prison overcrowding remains a major problem in a country of over a billion people, China's two worst jails (two of the world's worst, actually) are Stanley Prison in Hong Kong and and Drapchi Prison in Tibet.


A recent survey of Asian businessmen ranked Indonesia's legal system dead last in terms of how easy it is to navigate. Which doesn’t bode well for you if you find yourself on the wrong side of the police. Worse still, parts of the country still practice Sharia law, and the penalty for crimes such as drug smuggling is death.


Not that West African jails were up there on your bucket list, but Nigeria’s are particularly nasty. The country's got the world’s third-worst record for human rights, and seventh worst for rule of law. You don’t even need to be convicted of a crime to get put away, as nearly two-thirds of inmates in Nigerian jails haven’t been charged with anything. Not only that, but it can take up to a decade to work your way through the legal system.


Though it might not be as brutal as the Tina Fey-run Siberian Gulag that housed Kermit the Frog, Russian jails haven't improved much since the days of the Iron Curtain. Cold, corrupt, and notoriously brutal, Russia is home to three of the world’s worst prisons: Butryka, Vladimir Central, and Petak Island -- a site in the middle of a remote, frozen lake that doesn’t even have washing facilities.


Remember Michael Fay? Yea, the American kid who got four lashes with a bamboo cane in Singapore back in 1994 for spray-painting in public. So much for Singapore’s vibrant street art scene. You can also get jailed in this city-state for stuff New Yorkers do in front of cops, like jaywalking and littering. And despite its thriving economy and space-aged skyline, it's rated as having the seventh-worst justice system in the world.



In case you thought the aforementioned Brokedown Palace was just an excuse to make Claire Danes look really, really miserable, take a look inside the notorious Bang Kwang prison. Located a few miles north of Bangkok, inmates are required to wear shackles for the first three months of their stay, live in cages where they can't stand, and only get a bowl of rice a day to eat. Plus, the sewers barely work.


If you find yourself on Day Four of a vacation in Trinidad and think to yourself, “I’m kinda bored. Let’s sail to Venezuela” -- stop right there. That’s about the dumbest decision you could make that doesn't involve flying Spirit Airlines. Not only does this socialist state have the lowest rule-of-law index in the world, but they also boast not one, but THREE, of the world’s worst prisons: El Rodeo, La Sabaneta, and Maracaibo. Which is even more impressive considering it's a country of only 30 million. As if it couldn't get any worse, the country's prisons are now running a staggering 270% over capacity.

Our Newsletter
By Signing Up, I Agree to the Terms and Privacy Policy.