Travelling is good. Travelling broadens your mind and lets you make new friends. It also exposes you to some of the worst places on the planet for getting busted by the cops. Here are some of the places where you will want to keep on the right side of the law.
1. North Korea
You really, really don’t want to upset the police in North Korea. The Hoeryong complex is a giant prison where prisoners are cramped 100 to a room and are routinely beaten and tortured. Being hung upside down and standing all day long completely covered in water are some of the experiences you would come across here.
In general terms, I can highly recommend that you try and stay out of prisons in all of Latin America. However, La Sabaneta in Venezuela is one which stands out as especially brutal. There are some 15,000 more prisoners there than its capacity allows and parts of the prison are run by gangs who terrorise their fellow inmate with extortion rackets. The death rate runs into the hundreds some years.
The Evin House of Detention has been in the news recently and it is famous for the usual mix of beatings, torture and mock executions. New inmates are blindfolded and sent underground as soon as they pass through the gates. Religious propaganda is pumped out over TV screen almost constantly and forced confessions are common.
You saw Midnight Express, right? It wasn’t a work of fiction. It was based on a scarily true story. If you didn’t see it then a guy from the US buys some drugs, gets busted by the cops and thrown in jail, where he is beaten, abused, drugged and generally given the modern rehabilitation programme. Current reports from Turkey suggest that you are unlikely to be greeted with a warm hug and a chocolate under your pillow when you get banged up there.
This is a beautiful country with friendly people and great food. The jails aren’t so great though. Your biggest problem is going to be, let’s be frank here, that they might hang you. There is an incredibly strict justice system, especially when it comes to drugs smuggling and dealing. If you get caught with marijuana on you then can expect a big fine, time in jail and maybe some lashings. Even a tiny amount of weed can put you in jail and a bigger quantity will probably see you given the death sentence, if you are classed as a drugs trafficker rather than a user.
Since we are talking about being busted by the cops in possession of marijuana we might as well mention Japan. You probably won’t be badly treated here but our friends in the Land of the Rising Run are tough on drugs. If you are caught with one little itty bitty joint you can get a 5 year jail sentence and some hard labour, although foreign potheads usually get booted out of the country instead.
The Gldani Prison in Georgia came under the spotlight in 2012 when video footage showed the terrible abuse that prisoners suffered at the hands of the prison guards. Apparently it has been a tradition in the jail since at least 2005.
The Russian gulags were infamous forced labour camps in remote, desolate places like Siberia. If you end up banged up in Siberia you will have a more comfortable experience than past prisoners but you will still live in an incredibly remote region and have to suffer temperatures as low as -11C.
I love Paris in the spring time. I love Paris in the fall. I would hate Paris in the prison, though. La Sante Prison is the most notorious prison in France. It has the highest inmate suicide rate in Europe and prisoners face 23 hours in their cells in 100 degree temperatures. On the bright side, you might run into Carlos the Jackal if they chuck you in here.
10. The US
The US isn’t exactly short of notorious jail hellholes. If the cops bust you here than the ADX Florence Supermax in Colorado is one place you don’t want to end up. This is the country’s only federal supermax prison and it houses some highly dangerous inmates. Not that you’ll see much of them, as 22 hours in a tiny darkened cell is about as much as you can hope for here.