Tuesday, August 4, 2020 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

10 Countries Where You Absolutely Do NOT Want to Go to Jail

There are some places where you absolutely do not want to end up in jail. Of course, you don’t really want to go to jail anywhere, but some country’s jails are worse than others. If you’re in any of the following countries, be extra careful to stay on the legal path and keep yourself out of jail.

1    Russia

If you want to be literally banished to Siberia, then by all means, break a Russian law. While prisons aren’t nearly as bad as they were during the Soviet era, many are still absolutely horrible. Prisons in the freezing northern regions embody all the worst of Russian jail sentences plus the added bonus of freezing your butt off no matter what time of year it is. Forced labor is just one pastime you’ll get to enjoy if you land yourself in a Russian prison. One American, Arkady Gontmakher, discovered the horrors of Russian prison after being accused of poaching crab.
2    Thailand

Some offenses in Thailand might surprise you, and the prison sentence that goes with them is even worse. Drug smuggling is highly illegal, and you can be given capital punishment if you get caught. Thai prisons are also no walk in park. They are known to be overfilled and very dirty. American jails look like five-star hotels next to jails in Thailand! If you take a vacation to the beautiful Thai coast, follow the rules: don’t deface an image of the king and don’t smuggle in drugs.
3    Saudi Arabia

The most terrible place in all of the Middle East is said to be Al-Ha’ir Prison. This prison is a terrifying place to be because it houses the most hardened and dangerous criminals. Many convicted terrorists are held here, and violence is rampant. The few Western people who have found themselves here on the basis of espionage did not particularly enjoy their experience of torture.
Saudi Arabia
4    Syria

We’d rather not find out if the rumors about Syrian prisons are true. It is alleged that over 13,000 people were hanged in just one Syrian prison! It has not been confirmed if these reports are actually true (we rather hope they aren’t), but just in case, it’s a good idea to stay far away from Syrian prisons. There are many awful stories of the things that happen in Syrian prisons, from extreme overcrowding to torture. While it’s hard to say what is true and what is not, it’s better not to find out for yourself.
5    Venezuela

South American jails are actually rather terrifying in general, but Venezuela has some of the scariest. If you break a law and get thrown in jail, at least you don’t have to pay for a hotel during your time in Venezuela, right? Wrong! You actually have to pay for the rent of your cell, as well as your bed and anything else you want. Cells are packed full, and violence is common. This is true for many places in South America.
6    Turkey

Turkey has been known to imprison Westerners on unconfirmed charges. And Turkish prisons aren’t so nice, either. Dibarkir Prison in particular has been found to implement many human rights abuses in the past, although it has been improving over time. The prison is highly overcrowded, and there have been many incidents of prisoners killing each other in violent ways.
7    Senegal

Want to spend a few years in a Senegal prison? Then get yourself some illegal drugs and then get arrested. Although Senegal is making steps toward improving prison conditions, being incarcerated is by no means a pleasant experience. Poor nutrition, health issues, and early deaths are common in Senegal’s prisons.
8    India

If you find yourself in jail while in India, it will be a while before you can get yourself out. And guess what? Your passport holds no sway here. You are subject to the same laws as an Indian national if you visit India. Prison sentences in India are long compared to most of the rest of the world. Overstay your visa? Earn yourself a decade-long stay in prison. Your extra ten days just became an extra ten years!
9    China

Prisoners in China has far fewer human rights than what Western prisoners have at home. You have restricted access to a lawyer and may be required to do forced labor while you’re in bonds. To avoid getting arrested in China, remember that Big Brother may be watching. China keeps closer tabs on people and offers less privacy, so if you think you’re getting away with something—well, you probably aren’t. The good news is that the nightmare may be short for you, depending on where you’re from. You are allowed to call your embassy if you get arrested.
10    Singapore

Corporal punishment is alive and well in Singapore, and we’re not talking about spankings. To avoid getting lashed with a bamboo cane (ouch), don’t try any funny business in Singapore. Things that Westerners might consider as misdemeanors are punishable offenses in Singapore, and can result in jail time, heavy fines, and, yes, getting whacked with a stick.


Punishment for breaking the law can be much harsher in some countries than others. Sentences are long, conditions are appalling, and rights often don’t even exist. Nobody wants to wind up arrested when they go on vacation, but you may want to be very careful to stay on the right side of the law when you travel to these countries. These are 10 places where you really, really don’t want to go to jail.

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