The Russian prison system has long been known for its harsh conditions, overcrowding, and human rights abuses. With a vast network of prisons, detention centers, and penal colonies spread across the country, Russia has one of the largest prison populations in the world.
In selecting the worst prisons, we have considered various factors, including the prison's history, the inmates' living conditions, the treatment of prisoners, and the security measures in place. By shedding light on the dark realities of these prisons, we hope to raise awareness of the urgent need for prison reform in Russia.
Keep reading to learn more about the eight worst prisons in Russia and the challenges those imprisoned here face within their walls.
Top Worst Prisons In Russia
Black Dolphin Prison (Penal Colony No. 6)
Black Dolphin Prison, also known as Penal Colony No. 6, is a maximum-security prison in Sol-Iletsk, Orenburg Oblast, Russia. Although the prison has a long history dating back to 1745 when it was only a jail, after 1773, it was opened as a prison and is known for its strict regime and harsh living conditions.
The inmate population at Black Dolphin Prison is around 700, with most classified as Category IV, meaning they are considered extremely dangerous and require maximum security measures. Inmates at Black Dolphin Prison are convicted of serious crimes, including murder, terrorism, and organized crime.
Living conditions at Black Dolphin Prison are notoriously harsh, with inmates spending up to 23 hours daily in their cells. The cells are small and windowless, with a bed, a table, and a toilet. Inmates are allowed to take one hour of exercise per day in a small yard surrounded by high walls and barbed wire.
The prison is also known for its use of torture and violence against inmates. Inmates are subjected to beatings, electric shocks, and psychological torture. Correctional officers are known for brutality and have been accused of excessive force.
Black Dolphin Prison is considered one of the worst prisons in Russia and has been criticized by human rights groups for its inhumane treatment of prisoners. The European Court of Human Rights has also criticized the prison for its use of torture and violence against inmates.
Vladimir Central Prison
Located in the historic city of Vladimir in Russia, has a long and complex history dating back to its establishment by the Russian Empire in 1783. Over the years, it has served as a place of punishment for political dissidents and opponents of the Soviet regime.
Currently, the prison is one of the largest in Russia, with a capacity for up to 1,220 inmates. However, despite being a regular detention facility, it has gained a reputation for being one of the worst prisons in the country due to its inhumane living conditions and the abuse of prisoners by the authorities.
Former inmates and human rights organizations have spoken out about the extreme abuse of prisoners in Vladimir Central Prison, with widespread reports of beatings, torture, and psychological abuse. Inmates are often housed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, with little access to natural light or fresh air.
The situation is so dire that reports have likened the treatment of inmates to conditions in the Soviet Gulag. Some prisoners have even resorted to self-mutilation to avoid beatings by prison guards.
Despite efforts by the Russian government to deny the existence of torture prisons, human rights organizations claim that dozens of such facilities exist across the country. The situation in Vladimir Central Prison is particularly alarming, with widespread reports of abuse and mistreatment.
Butyrka Prison is located in Moscow, Russia, and was first built in the 18th century. Over the years, it has housed various prisoners, including political dissidents, common criminals, and prisoners of war. The prison is known for its distinctive neoclassical architecture and has been the subject of numerous literary and cultural works.
Despite its historical significance, Butyrka has also been the site of numerous human rights abuses and criticisms over its treatment of prisoners. The prison has been criticized for its overcrowding, poor living conditions, and inadequate medical care, particularly for pretrial detainees held in limbo for extended periods. In addition, the use of punitive measures such as solitary confinement has also been a subject of controversy.
Butyrka has also been known for treating political prisoners and dissidents held in prison for their activism and opposition to the state. Notable figures who have been held in Butyrka include Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian author and critic of the Soviet regime, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a businessman and political activist who was imprisoned for his opposition to the Russian government.
Despite its troubled history, there have been recent efforts to reform Russia's criminal justice system and improve conditions for prisoners. In 2018, it was announced that Butyrka would be closed, and several new detention centers would be constructed nationwide. While the prison closure has been discussed for quite a while, no action has been taken to reconstruct the prison.
Matrosskaya Tishina is a prison in Moscow, Russia, known for its harsh conditions and history of torture. The prison was built in the1945 and has been used to hold a variety of prisoners over the years, including political dissidents, organized crime members, and common criminals.
Matrosskaya Tishina is widely considered one of the worst prisons in Russia, if not the world. The prison is known for its strict security measures, poor living conditions, and inadequate medical care. It has been criticized for treating pretrial detainees and using punitive measures such as solitary confinement.
In addition to its poor living conditions, Matrosskaya Tishina has a dark history of torture and mistreatment. Several high-profile cases of torture and abuse have taken place at the prison, including the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in custody in 2009 after being denied medical treatment. The prison has also been criticized for handling the case of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was recently transferred there after going on a hunger strike to protest his lack of medical care in another prison.
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Petak Island Prison (White Swan)
Petak Island Prison, also known as White Swan, is located in Solikamsk, Perm Krai, Russia. It was originally built in the early 20th century and has been used to hold a variety of prisoners over the years, including political dissidents, common criminals, and prisoners of war. If we talk about the exact date, the prison was opened in 1938.
It is considered one of the worst in Russia, if not the world. It has been criticized for its harsh conditions, including overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and lacking necessities such as food and clothing. Prisoners in White Swan are often subjected to torture and abuse by guards, and the prison has a high rate of inmate suicide.
The exact number of inmates in White Swan is unknown, but it is believed to be in the hundreds. The prison has been the subject of several high-profile cases of mistreatment and abuse, and human rights organizations and governments worldwide have called for its closure.
Lefortovo Prison is a high-security detention center in Moscow, Russia. Its history dates back to the Soviet era when it was known for its notorious reputation as a place of torture and executions during Stalin's regime. The prison was named after François Le Fort, a 17th-century nobleman from Geneva who advised Russian Czar Peter the Great.
The exact opening date of the facility remains unknown, but it is believed to have been in operation since at least 1881. Lefortovo was initially publicized as a model prison by the Bolsheviks. However, it soon became known for its horrific conditions and was used to house political prisoners, including dissident authors and foreign journalists.
Today, Lefortovo Prison is used to detain individuals accused of high crimes, including treason, espionage, and political corruption. The facility is notorious for its strict security measures, and the limited contact prisoners have with the outside world. Inmates are allowed one hour outside their cell each day, under the watchful eye of armed guards.
Family and friends of prisoners are typically prevented from visiting, and lawyers often face difficulties in accessing their clients. The prison has been criticized for its poor treatment of inmates, including reports of strip searches, physical abuse, and lengthy interrogations.
Despite its dark history, Lefortovo Prison remains a symbol of power and control for the Russian government. Its role as a detention center for high-profile prisoners reflects the government's willingness to use extreme measures to maintain its authority. While efforts have been made to improve conditions at the prison, Lefortovo remains one of the most notorious detention centers in the world.
Penal Colony No. 56 (Black Eagle)
Black Eagle Prison, also known as Penal Colony 56, was a maximum-security Supermax prison in the northern Ural mountains in the village of Lozvinsky, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. The prison was home to 260 men convicted of murder, living under one of the strictest prison regimes in Russia.
In Soviet times, Black Eagle was the only colony in which criminals sentenced to exceptional imprisonment (IMN) were serving their sentences, by which a 20-year imprisonment in the colony of a special regime replaced the execution. An additional building was opened with the advent of life sentences in the colony. Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment lived in separate buildings, usually in cells for one or two.
The prison is considered one of the worst prisons in Russia due to its brutality towards inmates, no basic facilities for the prisoners, and so on. In many cases, the prisoners were kept inside for 23 hours a day, with an hour to walk in a special room without a roof. Prisoners slept with the lights on, and lying in bed was prohibited during the day.
Kresty Prison, located in Saint Petersburg, Russia, has a long and storied history dating back over 200 years. Originally a central transit prison in 1868, it was later demolished and replaced by a brick prison by 1892. Kresty, meaning "crosses," was named for its cross-shaped building containing around 1000 single cells. It was designed for solitary confinement, with each cell containing a table, stool, bunk, and shelf with utensils. The guards would bring food and observe the prisoners through a small window on the door. The prison was the first in Russia to have electricity and was considered very modern, with white walls, wooden floors, and windows instead of thin panes.
The prison deteriorated in the 90s and 2000s, and crowded and hot cells became dangerous for inmates. By the beginning of the 21st century, Kresty had become one of Russia's most famous pretrial detention centers.
One of the most significant issues with Kresty and other pretrial detention centers in Russia is the difficulty in being granted house arrest or bail. Moscow courts have granted 99% of petitions by prosecutors for extended detention terms in Russia's region.
It is almost impossible to avoid being placed in controlled isolation during the investigation or trial, leading to overcrowding and dangerous inmate conditions. Human rights activists who visited Kresty in the 2000s and 2010s reported cases of torture, brutal treatment, and deaths of prisoners.
The public has learned about high-profile cases and deaths among the inmates, including those accused of sexual assault and drug trafficking. The prison's history, modern-day conditions, and treatment of inmates make it one of the worst prisons in Russia and the world.
Worst Prisons In Russia
There you have it, the worst prisons in Russia, known for their harsh conditions, overcrowding, and high rate of human rights violations. Inmates in these prisons often suffer from physical and psychological abuse, lack of medical care, and forced labor. The Russian government has faced criticism from human rights organizations and international bodies for the inhumane conditions in these prisons. Despite some attempts at reform, the situation in these prisons remains dire.
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