Hell Behind Bars: 7 of History’s Most Brutal Prisons Since Ancient Times

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In some countries, you may hear stories about prisoners who live in relative luxury. In these penitentiaries, inmates have access to games rooms and even enjoy a nice comfortable cell. Of course, there are plenty of prisons around the world where harsh and brutal treatment is the norm. With disease, overcrowding and gang violence, no one wants to end up in such a place. Believe it or not, there are prisons in history which make many notorious modern facilities look tame in comparison; here are 7 of the worst.

1 – Pitesti Prison

Pitesti Prison was a penal facility in Communist Romania that was built in the late 1930s. The first political prisoners entered the jail in 1942, and it quickly developed a reputation for bizarre methods of torture. Pitesti earned its place in history as a brutal prison due to the re-education experiments conducted there from December 1949 to September 1951. The goal of the experiments was to brainwash prisoners into giving up their religious and political beliefs and alter their personalities to the stage where they displayed total obedience.

It is regarded as the largest brainwashing and torture experiment conducted by the Communist Bloc. In total, up to 5,000 people were victims of ‘re-education’ and it followed on from similar attempts at a prison in Suceava. The stages of re-education involved psychological and physical torture.

The first stage, known as ‘external unmasking’ involved the use of torture to interrogate inmates. They had to reveal everything about their personalities and were coerced into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. The next stage, known as ‘internal unmasking,’ involved the prisoners providing the names of people who were lenient towards them during early interrogations. The third phase, known as ‘public moral unmasking,’ involved public humiliation. Prisoners had to renounce their entire belief system. For example, Christians were dressed up like Christ and forced to blaspheme sacred texts and religious symbols.

Typical punishments involved guards dunking the heads of prisoners into buckets of urine and feces. Religious prisoners had to eat feces as Holy Communion and inmates were forced to urine, defecate and spit into the mouths of other prisoners. Eventually, the prison was closed in 1952 and members of the group that experimented were punished. Eugen Turcanu, one of the prisoners, became the leader of the Pitesti Experiment but was executed for his crimes in 1954 along with several other torturers.

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