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Top 20 Worst Prisons In Africa (2024)

The worst prisons in Africa are stark examples of what happens when the rate of crime goes up above what the government can afford to fund. Prisons are built to accommodate inmates based on the existing crime rates at the time when they are built.

Crime rates can double overnight; fueled by worsening economic and social conditions. Yes, blogs and journals can generate more reads by talking negatively about the sorry conditions of these prisons, but somebody has to look beyond the surface, and examine why these prisons are the way they are.

Perhaps at some point it will also be necessary to talk about how to deter people from turning to crime in the first place, thus averting the need for the existence of congested prisons such as these.

Top 20 Worst Prisons In Africa

1. Nairobi Prison – Kenya

Nairobi Prison- Kenya is one of the most overcrowded prisons in Africa, and it is a terrible place for a human being to. This prison confines 250 inmates in a single room that was intended to hold 50. Not surprisingly, the result is that the whole place looks like where animals are herded rather than where people are kept.

The prison was built to hold 800 prisoners, but today there are more than 3800 inmates who call it home.

The result is not just crowding; it means there is a sore lack of everything; mattresses, soap and other sanitary items, as well as food, and uniforms. In fact, inmates face a terrible risk of contracting infectious diseases, and the worst part is that the healthcare at the prison facility is grossly inadequate.

Perhaps it is effective at giving the inmates a reason to reconsider their actions and to seek rehabilitation. Nobody leaves this prison and looks forward to serving a second time.

2. Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison – South Africa

Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison is a notorious prison; it has often been cited as the worst in Africa. Yes, everything is wrong in this prison; it is overcrowded and filled with dangerous people.

This is a thoroughly uncivil place to be; it houses the most notorious and unrepentant kind of prisons in the country. Most times prison workers have to resort to brute force to get them to behave; and sometimes this can lead to free for all fights between the prison workers and the inmates.

Gangsterism is a major feature of this prison; there are two main rival gangs in this prison and they are responsible for giving the prison the bad reputation that it has. Inmates in this prison are not deprived of food or sanitary items; instead they are deprived of a choice to be a good person. Many who get locked up in this prison actually end up coming out worse than they had gone in because they get to join a gang.

Even when they get out of the prison they have already had their minds corrupted, and so they get into higher forms of crime, and they either end up dead or back in prison.

3. Black Beach Prison – Equatorial Guinea

If there was an award for the most inhuman prison in Africa it would probably go to black beach prison, which is located on the island of Bioko, in the capital city of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

The prison seems to have a policy of forcing the inmates to rethink their lives through all imaginable forms of brutalization and ill treatment.

While the prison is nowhere near as overcrowded as the two prisons listed above; it is still a terrible place to find oneself because every small mistake is met with near brutal beatings that can leave one gasping for air. Perhaps the reason why inmates receive very little food rations is to deprive them of the strength to stand up to the guards.

Medical care is also sorely lacking in this facility; the result being that inmates can get severely ill before they receive treatment; and they can even die in the process.

4. Gitarama Prison – Rwanda

Gitarama Prison in Rwanda is one of the deadliest prisons in Africa; it has one of the highest rates of inmate deaths, even if the records are not exactly accurate. There are terrible stories coming out of that place, but those stories will not be shared on this platform until further confirmations are received.

One of the major problems with this prison is overcrowding. It is built to house 600 inmates, but this small facility currently has over 6000 inmates. Conditions are so bad that they lack adequate sleeping space; meaning that some people are forced to stand all day long, while the lucky ones can find a corner to crouch.

As one of the deadliest prisons in Africa; reports indicate that there is a high rate of mortality in the prison; and that mortality arises from the fact that the place is just unsanitary. Prisoners cannot get soap to bath; and so they can easily fall sick.

Another cause of mortality is fighting; sometimes deadly fights can break out in the prison; and aside from stabbings, some can simply fall from the brute force of the trauma; especially when they have not been properly fed.

5. Kamiti Maximum Prison – Kenya

Kamiti Prison is located in the agricultural district of Kiambu, in Kenya. The place has already become notorious due to the kind of terrible inmates it house; criminals who have been convicted of acts like sexual violence, robbery, and so on.

In the underworld; getting into this prison must be a medal of honor because those who survive the ordeal are seen as extra tough people; any sort of dissident behavior is met with force. In fact, there are reports of inmates being beaten to death in the prison.

It is not only prison warders that use beatings to subdue the inmates; within the prisoners themselves there is very brutal behavior as they use brute force to subdue one another in order to claim dominance in the prison.

The prison was intended to house 1400 prisoners, but instead it houses around 3000. With that kind of congestion comes other problems such as unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, outbreak of diseases, and so on.

6. Chikurubi Maximum Prison – Zimbabwe

Chikurubi Maximum Prison is the largest and most terrible prison in Zimbabwe. It is on the outskirts of the capital city- Harare. The prison was intended to hold around 1300 inmates, but presently it holds around 3000.

At nearly 3 times its normal capacity, the prison is very much overcrowded, with the result that most of the inmates cannot get common blankets to sleep. The food is poor and rations are small; and as a result; pictures coming from that prison show inmates as thin as brooms, looking like they could break at any moment.

It’s not just the pictures that one has to worry about; such overcrowded conditions mean that the place is unsanitary; and people can easily catch infections. To make matters worse, the medical facilities on the prison are nonexistent; meaning that inmates can die from even small and relatively common diseases.

Deliberately starving people is a form of human rights abuse in itself; but the prison is said to use beatings and other forms of brutality as a way subduing inmates.

7. Kinshasa Penitentiary Rehabilitation Center – Congo

Kinshasa Penitentiary Rehabilitation Center is no longer a place of rehabilitation; it is now a place of flat-out inhumane punishment. The prison is a place that is filled with hungry looking inmates who are only fed with the bare minimum.

The prison’s capacity is just 150 prisoners but it now has more than 850 inmates. That means there is just no space for the inmates to live like decent human beings. As a result; the inmates are forced to sleep in the hallway and near septic tanks- just anywhere with a roof.

Furthermore, other issues prevalent in the prison include lack of adequate food, medical inputs, and so on.

8. The Mukobeko Maximum Prison – Zambia

The Mukobeko Maximum Prison is located kabwe, which is located in the center of Zambia. The prison was intended to hold 400 inmates, but now holds more than 1700 which is about 4 times its intended capacity. The result is that inmates are crowded into rooms; sometimes numbering 20 when they should be no more than 2.

In that number; sometimes you find that the inmates cannot even lie down; they only crouch with their backs to the wall and their feet in front of them.

The prisoners are so tightly packed together that often when one inmate is sick, the illness spreads throughout the prison. Even the sick inmates cannot access good healthcare management; and as a result; it is common to find inmates dying of treatable diseases.

9. Drakenstein Prison – South Africa

Drakenstein Prison is another famous prison, or rather infamous prison. It is known as the place where Nelson Mandela spent the last part of his imprisonment; but that historical significance is being eroded by the persistent problems the prison is passing through.

Some of the problems include malnutrition, lack of adequate health care, and poor sanitation in the facility. There is little wonder; the facility was built to hold 386 inmates, but houses nearly 3 times that number.

Gang activity is becoming a serious concern; many of the otherwise calm inmates soon become radicalized and violent.

10. Kirikiri Maximum Prison – Nigeria

This is most notorious prison in Nigeria; one that is built to contain the most hardened type of prisoners such as murders, thieves, armed robbers, rapists, conmen and gangsters. This is where people go to become extra hardened criminals because there is very little done in terms of rehabilitation; just beatings and physical work.

The prison is located in kirikiri; a small peninsular in Lagos, Nigeria. The kirikiri maximum prison actually has a capacity of around 1700, but the number of inmates is presently around 3000.

The 3000 inmates at this prison lack the basic necessities; even the food is bare minimum; and sanitary items are hard to come by. However, there are many humanitarian organizations that go from prison to prison to provide food, and other necessary items.

The following is a more complete list of the 20 worst prisons in Africa, and their locations.

Rank Prison Country Region
1 Nairobi Prison Kenya East Africa
2 Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison South Africa Southern Africa
3 Black Beach Prison Equatorial Guinea Central Africa
4 Gitarama Prison Rwanda East Africa
5 Kamiti Maximum Prison Kenya East Africa
6 Chikurubi Maximum Prison Zimbabwe Southern Africa
7 Kinshasa Penitentiary Rehabilitation Center Congo Central Africa
8 Kirikiri Maximum Prison Nigeria West Africa
9 The Mukobeko Maximum Prison Zambia Southern Africa
10 Drakenstein Prison South Africa Southern Africa
11 Jimeta Prison Nigeria West Africa
12 Makala Prison Democratic Republic of Congo Central Africa
13 Luzira Maximum Security Prison Uganda East Africa
14 Chichiri prison Malawi East Africa
15 Maula Prison Malawi East Africa
16 Kuje Prison Nigeria West Africa
17 Bamako Central Prison Mali West Africa
18 Nouna Prison Burkina Faso West Africa
19 Gikondo Prison Rwanda East Africa
20 Abidjan Prison Cote d Ivoire West Africa


Most Dangerous Countries In Africa

Poorest Countries In Africa

Most Alcoholic Countries In Africa


When looking at the worst prisons in Africa we must keep in mind that prisons are not meant to be luxury holiday resorts. Therefore, the goal is to keep the inmates in a condition that will enable them seek a better way of life than whatever crime landed them there to begin with. Unfortunately, however, there are too many criminals than most governments can deal with; leading to prisons becoming very crowded, unsanitary, and rowdy.

Furthermore, governments have to spend money on education, healthcare and infrastructure; and as such they have very limited resources to spend on the unproductive inmates in prisons. The best way to tackle the problem of bad conditions at prisons is to reduce the number of people going there in the first place.

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