The practice of imprisonment as punishment for crime dates back as far as the 17th century when people — even orphans — were held for minor things or for awaiting trial. But according to scholar Ashley Rubin, those "prisons" were more akin to today's jails — not penitentiaries — and were not places for punishment.
Three of the first state prisons in the world opened in the United States just after the American Revolution: in Massachusetts in 1785, in Connecticut in 1790 and Pennsylvania in 1794. There was a desire at that same time to reform the jails because conditions were so rife with fights, corruption and disease. So this thinking opened the door for what, Rubin wrote in JSTOR, "paved the way for prisons as we now know them."
Today, the size and living conditions of prison vary widely and are often tied to the criminals they house. Minimum security prisons in the United States and abroad might have comfortable beds, access to private bathrooms, and recreational and rehabilitation programs. In the United States, the rich and famous may even have the chance to serve their sentences in facilities upgraded with flat-screen TVs and other creature comforts, a controversial pay-to-play opportunity to ensure minimal discomfort while they serve their debts to society.
But there are prisons on the other end of that spectrum as well; they're severely overcrowded, lack proper medical care, and put occupants at severe risk of violence. This list highlights 10 of those, in no particular order.