Incarceration is one of the oldest forms of punishment. For years, rulers have put people in prison facilities to punish them. These supermax prison facilities hold up notorious criminals. And over the years, prisons have evolved as has humanity. Bars and guards are not enough in this day and age. So, the most secure prisons in the world need some technologically advanced features and measures.
The term super-maximum security or administrative maximum (ADX) prison is a control unit prison. In other words, it is a unit within prisons, representing the most secure levels of custody. And then you have prisons that are of maximum security through all levels.
Here are some of the maximum-security prisons in the world.
ADC Florence – United States
The ADX Florence, Colorado’s penitentiary is considered the most secure prison in the world. It is a maximum lock-down jail where prisoners do not even get to see the sun. They are lucky if they see the sun.
There are cells with no direct access. This way, prisoners are locked up the whole day. Experts call the ADX Florence an escape-proof prison. So far, nobody has escaped the facility. Located in the high desert two hours south of Denver, it got the nickname Alcatraz of the Rockies.
Opened in 1994, the world’s toughest prison to escape now serves as the home for notorious drug lord El Chapo. Other famous criminals who spent time in prison include Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary – United States
Alcatraz shut down in 1963, but it remains one of the most secure prisons in the world. The legend of Alcatraz lives on. And that is how the prison got its legendary fortress status.
It housed some of the most notorious criminals in the US, including Al Capone, Rafael Miranda, Whitey Bulger, Machine Gun Kelly, and many more. Throughout history, there have been 14 escape attempts made by 36 prisoners. Only five were unaccounted for and are presumed to have died by drowning.
What makes the prison so hard to escape? Well, considering the distance from the shore, cold water, and strong currents, even if someone manages to escape the high-security prison, they will have to swim to the shore.
The Anglin Brothers, Clarence and John are the only men who have ever escaped and never found. They are presumed to have survived. Frank Morris joined them as the three escaped inmates plotted the plan for years.
La Sante Prison – France
Operated by the French Prison Service of the Ministry of Justice, the prison is located in the east of the Montparnasse district of the 14th arrondissement in Paris. It is one of the most infamous prisons in France. The prison has VIP and high-security wings.
Built in 1867 in the very heart of Paris, the prison is famous as “the prison where once you go in, you are not coming out”. Despite being in the heart of the city, the architecture of the prison and security measures make it nearly impossible to get out.
A few years ago, prisoners tried to escape through the sewage pipe. But they got locked down too and suffocated to death. It is a nasty way to die, right?
Federal Correctional Complex (Terre Haute) – United States
The Federal Correction Complex in Indiana is another maximum-security prison. They employ only a minimal number of guards, reducing the chance of bribing the guards for escaping. The federal prison uses electronic surveillance with cameras that have a 360-degree view. In a controlled room, prison employees monitor the surveillance cameras.
The prison also has motion detector sensors located all over the facility. And last, but not least, they use face detection technology to identify the inmates.
High-risk inmates are placed in a secure wing with more rules and supervision. They are restricted segregation, involving a twenty-three-hour cell lock-in, usually in solitary confinement. Inmates have only 30 minutes of lunch and 30 minutes of yard time.
Arthur Road Jail – India
Also called the Mumbai Central Prison, it is the largest and oldest prison in Mumbai. Built in 1926, the prison houses the city’s prisoners. In 1994, it was upgraded to become a Central Prison. It occupies 2 acres of land.
Originally, it was supposed to house 1000 prisoners. But now it houses more than 2000 inmates. No outsider has ever broken in, and no inmate has broken out. It is an impenetrable fortress.
In pop culture, the supermax prison makes an appearance in the award-winning book Shantaram. The book details the life of Gregory David Roberts on the run and his time in Arthur Road.
Souza Baranowski Center – United States
The prison facility is the only jail in Massachusetts. Why it is so secure? Well, for starters, the surveillance system is top-notch. A team of the world-renowned institution of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or the MIT, developed the surveillance system.
They have a highly advanced camera matrix system that can record 24 hours a day of every angle in the supermax facility.
The prison was named in honor of a correction officer, James Souza, 29, and an instructor, Alfred Baranowski. They were shot in July 1972 by an inmate.
Fuchu Prison – Japan
Japan as a country has some of the most advanced technology in the world. And they apply it to their prisons as well. This facility has some of the most advanced security measures in prisons around the world.
There are only a few details we know about the prison. And the secrecy and mystery only add to the security.
Fuchu opened in June 1935 after the Home Ministry decided they need a new and larger prison. The prison covers an area of 56 acres, surrounded by a 1.1-mile wall with 18 feet of height.
Camp Delta – United States
Imagine escaping from prison only to end up in a military base with thousands of American soldiers? Well, that is what Camp Delta is.
The prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it officially belongs to the United States. The country used the prison to house suspected terrorists in the fight against Al Qaeda.
In the past, there were reports of torture, but this has been eliminated totally. Every ADX prisoner has between 10 to 12 prison officials assigned to him. And even if he manages to escape, he ends up on an American military base.
Most of the security forces there are US Army military police and US Navy Masters at Arms.
HMP Belmarsh, United Kingdom
Americans have their Camp Delta, and the British have their HM Prison Belmarsh. Located in Greenwich, South East London, the prison houses category A prisoners.
It functions as a high security prison since 1991 and holds more than 1000 inmates. The security is at an extremely high level, which is how the facility got the nickname British Guantanamo.
Tadmor Military Prison – Syria
The French Mandate Forces built this prison in the early 20th century as a military barrack. Now, it is one of the hardest prisons to survive in, let alone escape.
The prison is famous for its insane human rights violations and abysmal living conditions. Located in the middle of the desert some 125 miles northeast of the Syrian capital, prisoners have to run for hours if they escape.
The only way to get out of the military prison is through one tunnel that you would have to crawl. And of course, that tunnel is highly secure.
During the 1980s, the prison housed thousands of Syrian prisoners. On June 27, 1980, the prison was home to the infamous Tadmor Prison massacre. Rifaat al-Assad, the day after the Syrian branch of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood failed to assassinate his brother, entered the prison. Member of units of the Defense Brigades under his command entered the prison and killed thousands of prisoners in the cells.
The prison was closed in 2001 and then reopened in June 2011. In May 2015, Tadmor was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They took control over the prison and used explosives to blow up the facility.
Qincheng Prison – China
Located in Beijing, the maximum-security China prison was built in 1958 with help from the Soviet Union. It is the only prison that belongs to the Ministry of Public Security.
Political prisoners often end up in Qincheng Prison. For example, participants in the Chinese democracy movement and Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Fun fact: once a prisoner enters the prison, they no longer use their original name. Instead, prisoners get numbers, consisting of two parts. The first two digits indicate the year the prisoner entered the prison, and the remaining digits are the sequential number. Inmates cannot even call each other by name.