15 worst prisons in Africa that you want to avoid in 2021

Nelson Mandela once said that to know the actual state of a nation, you have to visit its jails. If Africa was to be judged by the state of its prisons and correctional facilities, the continent would be staring at a bleak future. If you are incarcerated in the worst prisons in Africa, you will have one hell of a sentence because the conditions are not human friendly.

Worst prisons in Africa
Photo: pexels.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Prison is not a fantastic place to be. While inmates must be held accountable for their actions and serve the time imposed on them, they are still human beings that deserve to be treated with some level of humanity. However, this is not the case in most African countries. Many of the prisons have living conditions that are not even fit for swine.

List of worst prisons in Africa

How bad are African prisons? Those incarcerated in African prisons face years of confinement in often cramped and dirty quarters, with insufficient food allocations, inadequate hygiene, and little or no clothing or other amenities. Here is a list of the worst African prisons.

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1. Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison – South Africa

This is the most dangerous prison in South Africa. It is located in the Cape Town suburb of Tokai. This is a place where Nelson Mandela was transferred after 18 years of imprisonment on Robben Island. The maximum-security penal facility holds some of the most dangerous criminals in South Africa. It is the most overcrowded prison in the Western Cape.

It is supposed to host 3900 inmates, but it has more than 8900 inmates. Some of the cells in prison are at more than 300% overcapacity. As a result, prisoners are at high risk of exposure to infectious diseases or even death. Moreover, the prison is riddled with the activities of gangs.

2. Black Beach Prison – Equatorial Guinea

This is one of the harshest prisons synonymous with guard brutality, malnutrition, and overcrowding. It is located on the island of Bioko, in the capital city of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

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The prison has a reputation for systematically neglecting and brutalising inmates. Medical treatment is usually denied to inmates, and food rations are said to be meagre.

3. Gitarama Prison – Rwanda

It is one of the deadliest prisons in Africa. This is the home to prisoners who committed genocide-related crimes in Rwanda. The prison is so overcrowded that most of the prisoners never find sleeping space and end up standing all day long. The maximum capacity of the jail is only 600, but it hosts more than 6000 inmates.

Worst prisons in Africa
Inmates serving their sentence at Gitarama Prison in Rwanda. Photo: mirror.co.uk
Source: UGC

Gitarama records a huge number of deaths daily because of overcrowding and deadly fights between inmates. There are reports that 7-8 prisoners die daily in prison due to pathetic conditions. It has the worst jail food, and there have been reports of inmates eating the dead bodies of fellow inmates to stay alive.

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4. Kamiti Maximum Prison – Kenya

Situated in the agricultural district of Kiambu, this prison has gained notoriety due to the unspeakable squalor that the prisoners are subjected to. It is considered the most secure prison and hosts some of the most notorious criminals. The prison has earned a reputation for instances of sodomy, the beating of inmates to death, and epidemics.

Kamiti prison was meant to house 1,400 prisoners, but instead, it houses more than triple this number. This means that the level of congestion is dire. Malnutrition, cholera, and ulcers are normal occurrences.

5. Chikurubi Maximum Prison – Zimbabwe

This is the largest prison in Zimbabwe. It is located on the outskirts of Harare. Life in the cells is unbearable due to a lack of supplies like proper food and blankets. The water and food shortage is so acute at prisons that inmates sometimes rely on supplies from relatives.

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Basic painkillers and antibiotics are impossible to come by, meaning prisoners risk dying from easily treatable conditions such as tuberculosis. The prison is known for its overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. There are as many as 40 prisoners in each cell. Chikurubi prison is notorious for alleged mistreatment and human rights abuses.

6. Kinshasa Penitentiary Rehabilitation Center – Congo

This prison has been ranked among the worst prisons by the United Nations human rights. It is supposed to detain just 150 prisoners but is now home to more than 850 inmates. Convicts are forced to sleep in the hallway and near septic tanks because of a lack of enough space. Because of the poor health system, disease outbreaks are a daily occurrence.

7. Kirikiri Maximum Prison – Nigeria

The prison is located in Lagos State, Nigeria. It was built for hardened criminals with high offences. It is infamous for its degrading treatment of prisoners, appalling living conditions, and sub-standard medical care. The medium-security wing of the prison is notorious for overcrowding. Its official capacity is 1700 inmates, but it currently hosts more than 3000 inmates.

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8. The Mukobeko Maximum Prison – Zambia

The prison is located in the central Zambian town of Kabwe. It holds some of the most dangerous men and women, those on death row and life imprisonment. The prison was built to host 400 inmates, but more than 1700 inmates are held at the facility.

It was originally built to accommodate one inmate per cell, but there are more than ten prisoners in each cell. Prisoners live in overcrowded cells where there is no room to lie down at night. The prison often experiences outbreaks of diseases such as tuberculosis. It is infamous for guard brutality.

9. Nairobi Prison – Kenya

This prison is one of the most congested prisons on the continent. It was built to host 800 prisoners, but more than 3800 inmates are serving their sentences in the facility. There are 250 inmates confined in a room designed to hold only 50 inmates.

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Worst prisons in Africa
Prisoners serving their sentence in a Kenyan prison. Photo: @justice.defenders
Source: Instagram

As a result, it has become a breeding ground for countless diseases. The prisoners lack everything from mattresses to proper medical attention to clothing.

10. Drakenstein Prison – South Africa

The prison is located between Franschhoek and Paarl in the Western Cape of South Africa. It is here that Nelson Mandela spent the last part of his imprisonment campaigning against apartheid.

The facility is famous for holding the imprisoned gang members and for promoting gang violence. It is one of the most dangerous prisons in South Africa. There are recurrent malnutrition problems, lack of adequate health care, and poor sanitation in the facility.

11. Jimeta Prison – Nigeria

The Jimeta prison located in Damaturu, Yobe State, is considered extremely dangerous because it often houses religious extremists and terrorists linked to Boko Haram, making it prone to violent attacks. In 2012, there was a break in the prison when 40 suspected Boko haram members attacked the facility.

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The security situation is so bad that inmates in this facility aren’t certain of seeing the next day. There have been allegations of men molesting other men, forcing the new prisoners to join a gang to seek protection.

12. Makala Prison – Democratic Republic of Congo

Makala was built to house 1500 inmates, but it actually hosts more than 9,000 prisoners. Besides overcrowding, the prison’s cells are dilapidated, with almost non-existent sanitary facilities.

Tiny amounts of food are provided for one meal a day, and many inmates are forced to sleep without shelter due to the lack of space in cells. There have been reports of inmates dying from hunger and lack of medicine in this facility.

13. Luzira Maximum Security Prison – Uganda

This is a maximum-security prison for both men and women in Uganda, and it houses the death row inmates. It is located in the Luzira neighbourhood in Nakawa Division in southeastern Kampala. The prison was designed to house 1,700 inmates, but it has more than 8,000. There are more than 40 inmates crammed into bare cells measuring just 8m x 8m.

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Such tightly packed wards allow for little ventilation in contravention of international standards. The limited sleeping space means that the inmates are forced to sleep in lines or packed together. Congestion in the cells has been blamed for the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis.

14. Chichiri prison – Malawi

Chichiri is one of the harshest prisons in Malawi. It is located in Blantyre and is one of the largest prison facilities in the country. The prison was built to house 800 prisoners instead of 2000 currently detained there. The conditions in prison facilitate the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis.

Prisoners are fed just once a day due to the small budget that the government allocates to the penal system. The quality of the food is miserable. As a consequence, cases of malnutrition are common. Prisoners sit in an overcrowded cell during the night, and they struggle to sleep.

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15. Maula Prison – Malawi

The facility is located in Lilongwe, Malawi. Maula Prison was intended to house 800 inmates but now holds more than 1800 inmates. Overcrowding is a dire issue. Almost 200 people are crammed in a cell built to host 60 inmates.

Worst prisons in Africa
Prisoners serving their sentence n a Malawian prison. Photo: msf.org
Source: UGC

Severe overcrowding in the facility provides a conducive environment for the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The overcrowding also means that the prisoners share one toilet with 120 people and one tap to 900. Inmates receive an inadequate supply of food.

It is the worst nightmare of any criminal to be put behind bars in the worst prisons in Africa. Many of these facilities are in deficient condition, and their practices are at odds with human rights standards. There is an urgent need for reform in these prisons so that the prisoners can serve their sentences in a safe and clean environment.

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Source: Kenyan Breaking News

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