Top 10 Worst Prisons In Africa (2023)

Prisons are correctional areas where criminals are taken with the goal of giving them the punishment they deserve. However, some African prisons are considered among the worst prisons due to the inhumane activities that are usually carried out there.

While prison isn’t a place to have fun or merry, it’s should also not be a place where people should go and die. According to reports, malnutrition and overcrowding, which lead to infections are the most common causes of death in African prisons.

Some of the inhumane activities include malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of adequate health care, and many others. 

10 Worst Prisons In Africa

1. Chikurubi Maximum Prison, Zimbabwe

The Chukurubi Maximum Prison is Zimbabwe’s largest correctional facility. On the fringes of the country’s capital city. It houses approximately 17.000 prisoners (both men and women). Cells typically measure 9 meters (30 feet) by 4 meters (13 feet), and each cell can hold up to 40 inmates.

Maximum-security prison Chikurubi Is infamous for overcrowding, guard violence, hunger, overcrowding, no healthcare, and poor sanitary conditions, just like the other jails on this list. The majority of the day is spent locked up, and there are few leisure possibilities for the inmates.

Chikurubi Maximum Prison is the number one worst prison in Africa occupies the first list because of overcrowding, massive brutality, malnutrition, lack of adequate healthcare, poor sanitary conditions, improper coordination, etc.

2. Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa, Congo

Makala Central Penitentiary is a prison in Congo that is overcrowded, with over 850 inmates crammed into a facility designed for only 150.

Disease outbreaks are a common occurrence in the jail, with inmates sleeping in hallways, near sewage tanks, and so on.

On numerous occasions, the prison has been named as the worst prison in Africa. 

3. Gitarama Prison, Rwanda

When it comes to handling prisoners that committed genocide-related crimes in Rwanda, then Gitarama Prison is their home. However, the prison is also known for overcrowding prisoners leading to congestion and probably death. In fact, most of the prisoners never find sleeping space and end up standing all day long.

The prison is also known for recording a huge amount of deaths on a daily basis. Another disappointing fact is that most of the inmates engage in deadly fights and the dead ones are usually eaten since food is very scarce in the prison.

The prison is by far the dirtiest prison in Africa. Hence, prisoners are always exposed to diseases like gangrene leading to their death

4. Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison – Nigeria

The Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison is Nigeria’s most popular prison. It is named after the Kirikiri community in rural New Zealand. It is part of the Nigerian Correctional Service and has a capacity of 1,056 people. It officially became functional in 1955.

Its official capacity was 956 as of February 1, 1990, but it actually reported to have about 1,645 inmates a few years later.

Just like many other worst prisons in Africa, Kirikiri is well known for the congestion. It is also notorious for its degrading treatment of prisoners, horrible living, sub-standard medical care, and a high death rate. It is also known to hold over 50 inmates in cells designed for fewer people.

5. The Mukobeko Maximum Prison, Zambia

The Mukobeko Maximum Prison Located in Zambia is the fifth worst prison in Africa. Initially, when the prison was created, it was meant to serve as a correctional center where a single prisoner will be in a single cell.

It has however been mismanaged and there are now about 15 prisoners in a single cell leading to limited ventilation in the cell. Due to this, Disease outbreaks, such as TB, are common in the prison due to the lack of ventilation. The jail is also notorious for the harshness of its guards, hunger, rat infestations, overcrowding, and other serious offenses.

In addition, the prison is well known for anti-human activities including rodent infestations, guard brutality, malnutrition, etc. 

6. Nairobi Prison, Kenya

Established in 1911, the Nairobi Prison is the sixth-worst prison in Africa located in Kenya. It was built for 800 inmates but now houses over 3,000 inmates, making it overcrowded. The number has since then been on the increasing side.

The smell of sweat, human waste, and filth pervade the prison cells, as debris hangs in the air. In general, the prison’s living circumstances have made it difficult for inmates to have normal physical and mental health.

7. Kamiti Maximum prison – Kenya

Kamiti Maximum Security Prison is a Kenyan prison located in Nairobi. Located on a 1,200-acre plot, this prison is known for the indescribable torture which the inmates are put through.

The prison, which houses a lot of political detainees, has a history of sodomy, inmate executions, and epidemics in which hunger, cholera, and ulcers were common occurrences.

Many political prisoners were imprisoned at Kamiti in the 1980s and early 1990s, including Hussein Onyango Obama, Kenneth Matiba, Raila Odinga, Koigi wa Wamwere, Ngg wa Thiong’o, Jonah Anguka, and others.

The prison is the biggest in Kenya and was created to initially accommodate only 1400 criminals. However, the number of criminals has now overshadowed the capacity of the prison. The prison is also known for recording a high number of deaths.

8. Black Beach Prison, Equatorial Guinea

The Black Beach Prison was established in the 1940s. Common criminals were imprisoned here at first, but after the country’s independence in 1968 and the establishment of Francisco Macas Nguema’s dictatorship, many political opponents were imprisoned and executed in the prison. Bonifacio Ondó Edu and Edmundo Bossio were notable people who were executed in this prison.

Today, this prison has become synonymous with guard violence, hunger, overcrowding, rat infestations, overpopulation, insufficient healthcare, and limited food due to its history of human rights violations.

9. Pollsmoor Prison, South Africa

Pollsmoor is not just South Africa’s worst prison, but also one of the world’s most dangerous. Inmates live in overcrowded conditions, which appear to be run by Cape Town gangs.

Diseases spread quickly as a result of the overcrowding, and some of the convicts have been awaiting trial for years with no outcomes.

Inmates frequently engage in violence and use rudimentary weapons. It’s, even more, worse by the fact that a prison designed to house only 3900 inmates now houses over 8900 inmates.

10. Drakenstein Prison, South Africa

The Drakenstein Correctional Centre (previously Victor Verster Jail) is a low-security prison in the Dwars River valley in the Western Cape of South Africa, located between Paarl and Franschhoek on the R301 road, 5 kilometers off the R45 Huguenot Road. The jail is well-known for being where Nelson Mandela spent the final years of his imprisonment for his anti-apartheid activism.

Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in 1982 from the maximum-security prison on Robben Island, a small island in Table Bay. On December 9, 1988, Mandela was transferred to the then Victor Verster Prison, where he lived in a private house within the prison compound. A farm jail, Victor Verster, was frequently utilized as a stepping stone for the release of lower-risk political inmates. Mandela was held at Victor Verster Prison for another 14 months before being released on February 11, 1990. Reporters from all around the world surrounded the prison on the day of his release, giving the facility worldwide publicity.

Some of Cape Town’s most prominent gang members are kept in this ‘working’ facility. In fact, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous areas in all of South Africa. It’s where the tough gang members assemble.

11. Johannesburg Prison

This prison is notable for holding 500 inmates serving over 10 years and has a record of strict brutality as most raids have found out that a lot of weapons are seen on inmates including axes. Currently, the Prison facility holds over 3,000 inmates.



Overcrowding is a problem in many prisons around Africa, as cells designed to hold only ten inmates have been reported to hold over 100 inmates at a time. Prisons are ought to be correctional services where convicts are trained on how to become a better version of themselves. However, this is not the case in  some African prisons.