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

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3 – Carandiru Penitentiary

This prison was built in Sao Paolo in 1920 and was specifically designed to meet new criminal code regulations in Brazil. However, it was not officially opened until 1956, so it was immediately an outdated penal facility. At its peak, Carandiru held approximately 8,000 inmates with only 1,000 prison guards. Conditions within the prison were truly horrific as gangs controlled every inch while diseases were poorly treated and malnutrition was normal.

As a result, the prison was hit with an HIV epidemic which claimed the lives of countless prisoners. By the 1990s, the inmates practically ran the jail, but this situation led to a chain of events that went down in infamy. On October 2, 1992, an argument between two prisoners about football teams led to an all-out riot between two rival gangs.

The ratio of prisoners to guards meant the situation got out of control and the military police stormed the prison after the inmates had rioted for three hours. Rather than trying to negotiate, the police opened fire, and a bloodbath ensued. Overall, 111 people died; the police were responsible for 102 deaths while 9 inmates were stabbed to death by rivals before the military intervention.

Apparently, one of Brazil’s most notorious gangs, Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), was formed in 1993 as a direct result of the Carandiru Massacre. The PCC is believed to have murdered Jose Ismael Pedrosa, who was the prison’s director at the time of the massacre. The prison was ultimately demolished in 2002. In the aftermath, Colonel Ubiratan Guimaraes was sentenced to 632 years in prison for mishandling the incident. However, in September 2006, he was assassinated.

Justice for the massacre was slow in coming, but in April 2013, a total of 23 policemen were jailed for their role. Four months later, another 25 police were sentenced to prison time, and in April 2014, another 15 police were found guilty of murder. Their lawyers tried to claim the police shot the inmates in self-defence but the dead were riddled with an average of five bullets. Survivors of the massacre claim the police shot prisoners who were in the process of surrendering.

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