Inside world’s toughest prisons from murder and gang violence to child abuse

British socialite Jasmine Hartin is currently locked up in a prison in Belize, accused of shooting dead policeman Henry Jemmott on the island.

She's reportedly not been visited in Belize Central Prison by her family since she was arrested almost two weeks ago.

That may have helped take her mind off the hellish conditions she now finds herself living in.

The notorious jail is supposedly infested with scorpions, house members of rival gangs who have bloody battles inside and the inmates are fed fly-ridden pigs heads.

While Belize Central Prison will be a world away from the conditions Hartin will be used to, it is by no means the roughest prison in the world — here are a few of the worst.

Sabaneta Prison, Venezeula

Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world, so perhaps it is not a surprise that the country's prisons are among the most violent in the world.

Sabaneta Prison, in Maracaibo, was the most brutal of the lot.

It was hideously overcrowded, at one point housing 3,700 people in a space built for around 700. This lead to a prisoner to guard ratio of around 150:1.

Consequently, the inmates were very much in charge. They maintained their own kind of order, in the form of a gang-controlled hierarchy.

If prisoners wanted to drink, they had to drink straight from corroded bathroom pipes.

The war between rival gangs led to the beheading and dismemberment of several inmates and prison riots were par for the course.

In 1994 a riot broke out with, with inmates then starting a riot. It is claimed as many as 150 people died in the incident.

In 2013 alone there were 69 prisoners killed, when the jail was eventually shut down.

Notorious Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez once called Sabaneta "the gateway to the fifth circle of hell".

Tacumbu Prison, Paraguay

It is a similar story in the infamous Paraguayan prison, with horrific overcrowding and some of South America's most dangerous criminals proving a bad combination.

Around 3,000 prisoners are locked up in a jail supposed to hold 1,500.

Riots are common in the prison with many forced to sleep on the floor due to the cramped conditions.

The conditions are so bad that some inmates have taken to extreme measures in a bid to improve the situation or to move to another jail.

As well as going on hunger strike, some prisoners sew their mouths shut so they can't be forced to eat the shocking food in a gruesome act of defiance.

There has even been a child abuse ring reported inside the jail, while former prison director Jorge Fernández reckons many inmates use children who visit them to smuggle drugs inside.

Bang Kwang Prison, Bangkok, Thailand

  • Inside scorpion-infested hellhole jail where socialite locked up after cop shooting

Another prison that is shocking overcrowded, Bang Kwang is knows as the "Bangkok Hilton".

It houses Thailand's death row chamber, with around 10% of the 8,000 prisoners awaiting the death penalty – and each of those inmates has shackles welded to their legs.

Only one meal per day is served to prisoners, a bowl of rice and soup. Other food is available through the jail canteen although the poor inmates have to work for the wealthier prisoners to be able to afford what is on offer.

Bang Kwang is infested with rats and riddled with violence.

British woman Judith Payne said she was attacked by prisoners who tried to steal her diamond earrings and observed guards beating mentally ill and elderly prisoners with sticks.

Most prisoners are malnourished and diseased thanks to the lack of running water and terrible sewage system.

Drug sentences are much stiffer than murder. Brit Jonathan Wheeler was sentenced to 50 years in jail for smuggling heroin, before he was eventually released after serving 18 years.

He told of a local who was released after 11 years after shooting and butchering his wife, adding: "Life is so cheap there that drug sentences are worse than murder.”

Petak Island Prison, Russia

Good luck trying to escape from Petak Island Prison in Russia – it's surrounded by the freezing waters of White Lake.

Former head guard Vasily Smirnoff once said: "If they dig they hit water. If they try to swim the guards will shoot them."

The prison is in the remote city of Vologda in Russia, and it is just as well that it is very inaccessible because prisoners are only allowed two visitors a year.

There are no toilets, no proper washing facilities and inmates spend 22 and a half hours a day inside a cramped cell.

The shocking sanitation conditions are responsible for the rampant spread of diseases such as tuberculosis within the prison.

Prison psychologist Svetlana Kiselyova once said: "This place destroys people. The first nine months or so they spend adapting.

"After three or four years, their personalities begin to deteriorate. There is no way anyone can spend 25 years in a place like this without being psychologically destroyed."

Porto Velho Prison, Brazil

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Brazil is renowned for its violent prisons and Porto Velho is considered the most violent of the lot.

The jail, in the South American country's state of Rodondia, is renowned for its gang culture and barbaric violence, with beheadings common among rival factions.

One of the most violent riots occurred there in 2002 with as many as 40 inmates feared dead.

The cause of the rebellion is thought to be a failed mass escape on Tuesday and a subsequent order that prisoners with lesser sentences were not to be allowed freedom of movement in the prison.

In the evening rival gangs began to fight one another.

Then in 2016 eight people were killed as rival gangs clashed. There are a number of members of two of Brazil's biggest gangs inside, the Primeiro Comando da Capital and Comando Vermelho, which has led prison guards to attempt to segregate the prison without much success.

Danli Prison, Honduras

Perhaps not surprisingly for a jail situated in the world's murder capital, Danli Prison is an institution riddled with violence.

It is considered so dangerous that inmates are allowed to force the rules because the prison guards don't want to mess with them.

Escapes, drug abuse and corruption are common with riots and targeted killings also par for the course.

A report in September 2019 reported that the prison was operating at a staggering 204% capacity. The overcrowding coupled with the sweltering heat means disease spreads fast.

Fights and murders are common as street gangs vie for control.

Guards try their best to get on top of riots but for everyone else it is reportedly the gang leader inmates have to make friends with.

The government in Honduras has been reported to spend the equivalent of a shocking 43p a day per person on prison food, and the inmates are driven to eat rats.

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