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A Look at Europe's Weirdest, and Sometimes Cushiest, Prisons

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Russia's prison system doesn't exactly have a reputation for luxury, what with the legendary overcrowding—in one case, 10,000 prisoners are housed in a building designed for 3,000—and rampant spread of a resistant strain of tuberculosis. At least one corrupt prison warden is trying to change all that, by charging wealthy inmates for cushy extras like comfy furniture, flat-screen televisions, and aquariums (above). Those inmates were also supplied with booze and, in one case, sushi. Isn't there a happy medium between stuffing three inmates in every bed and having them sloshed and well fed? If so, the Russkies haven't discovered it yet, but other countries are giving it a shot, not all with, how do we put this, appropriate results.

? The Austrians apparently have a high rate of petty theft, and as one commenter pointed out, they're all probably just trying to get in the doors of this modern apartment-style complex. Located in the southeastern state of Styria, the building was designed by architect Joseph Hohensinn and includes both a court and the prison. A 2009 article in the New York Times magazine declared that, in the US anyway, the facility's "public profile has been limited to a series of...mocking blog posts"—sorry!—but that the prison was being treated as a model for future prisons across Europe.

? Up north in Norway, the similarly modern Halden Prison houses some of the country's worst offenders under maximum security. While most Americans might assume that means thick concrete walls and windowless cells, in Norway, where the justice system is geared toward rehabilitation, the prison looks more like a college dorm. A dorm where everyone gets their own bathroom, fridge, flat-screen TV, and cutesy comforter. And this wasn't a cheap exercise either. The Banksy-style street art alone, painted by the Norwegian artist Dolk, cost $1M.

? In Spain, the prisons aren't so clean and modern, except for a small cell block at Aranjuez Prison with so-called "family cells." Equipped to accommodate imprisoned spouses and their children, the jail has its own nursery school, playground, and child-rearing classes. One couple, a convicted murder and a drug trafficker, bore a child behind the prison walls.

? Prison officials in the United Kingdom haven't yet caught the modernization bug. In fact, some of the country's jails are serious relics. This one, believed to be among the smallest lock-ups in the world, was built in 1856 and houses just two inmates at a time. While technically this is just a holding cell for the island of Sark, it is the only such facility on the isle. Apparently, large-scale brawls are a rarity.

· Russian prison governor sacked for allowing luxury jail cells [Telegraph via Business Insider]
· Austria's Five-Star Prison [Glory of Carniola]
· Behind Bars...Sort Of [NYT]
· The Super-Lux Super Max [Foreign Policy]
· Toddlers behind bars [USA Today]
· World's Smallest Prison : Sark [Sight by Walk]