Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons season 2, episode 3 recap: ‘Papua New Guinea: The Breakout Prison’


Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons takes us inside Papua New Guinea’s Bomana Prison, where gangs must put aside differences just to survive.

Papua New Guinea’s Bomana Prison is one of the poorest prisons in the world.
Unfortunately, Port Moresby — Papua New Guinea’s capital — is also one of the worst, most violent places to live in the world. What makes it so bad? According to the host of Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, Raphael Rowe, there is rampant, warring tribal and gang violence. If that’s not enough, the unemployment rate’s at an astonishing 90%! It’s no surprise then that its prisons would face food shortages, prisoner and guard violence, and a host of other problems.

Bomana’s Remand Station – “Back to Basics” May Be Too Basic

When Raphael Rowe enters the prison, the guard makes clear that he could beat Raphael up if he gets “cheeky.” Of course, it’s an entirely unprovoked response, and it may just be for show — but what if it’s not?  Anyway, Rowe first spends time in a remand station — where accused criminals are kept while awaiting trial. To his amazement, there are no bunks or even mattresses in the remand station!

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Rowe is quick to remind us that these are merely accused criminals, yet they’re being treated like they’ve already been proven guilty. As it turns out, people on remand mix with already convicted criminals. There’s an obvious flaw to this: The already convicted criminals are more likely to be more dangerous, or encourage remand inmates to blend more into a gang lifestyle (I guess that’s why they call it Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons and not “Inside the World’s Loveliest Prisons”).

Shockingly, some people on remand have been awaiting trial for over 2 years! Now, this may be hard to do, but imagine if you were falsely accused of a crime (as Raphael Rowe was). How would you feel about spending 2 or more years imprisoned before your case even made it to trial? Chances are, you wouldn’t be too happy. Of course, this adds even further incentive for some to want out.

Either way, you’d have to deal with some inmates like Sedoki, who believes he killed a “witch woman” with a machete in a literal witch hunt. Sedoki says she killed his mother and father. In any case, Sedoki owns a Bob Marley t-shirt, which suggests he’s a pretty chill guy.

Mass Breakouts Have Occurred in Bomana

Prior to this episode, places highlighted in Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons were tough to escape. Bomana, however, seems to have escapes pretty often, including mass breakouts. The Guards are vastly outnumbered and unarmed, and security is pretty lax overall. It’s also apparent that Guards aren’t always highly qualified. According to a “white-collar” inmate named David, some prisoners actually write their own parole reports, because some Guards are illiterate. Rowe estimates that, at any given time, Bomana has only 20 staff members for a maximum security prison of over 600 prisoners.

Rowe speaks with an inmate named Benjamin who broke out of Bomana before by climbing a power pole. Also, guards are sometimes bribed into giving prisoners wire cutters to get through the perimeter fence. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. As Rowe notes, escaped prisoners would have to deal with jungle terrain, deadly snakes, wild dogs, poisonous spiders, and crocodiles!

Scarcity of Food and Work

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons has shown some crazy, struggling prisons already, so Bomana isn’t entirely surprising. Still, it’s odd to see prisoners chopping wood with axes to supply heat for large rice cookers. Also, when your allowable breakfast consists of tea and a single dry biscuit, you’re not particularly well-nourished.

The cooks are the prisoners themselves.  Goldberth, one of Bomano’s bakers, killed his bosses with a knife when he was 17, saying it was in self-defense. Either way, he’s in charge of supplying 2 bags of rice for over 400 people. Along with that, they get a single tin of meat.  Yum!

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In fact, visiting families aren’t allowed to bring in vegetables to supplement these rice meals.
Mind-bogglingly, the prison has a farm, but few if any of the fruits and vegetables go to malnourished prisoners (unless they can somehow smuggle some, of course). If you are in solitary confinement, you’ll have no electricity, and must rely on other inmates to bring you food.

The prison does have a workshop, where prisoners could theoretically work and maybe even get paid, but the most equipment at the workshop isn’t working. Why? The Prison Commander, Kiddy Keko, says the government won’t provide funding.

What do you think of this episode of Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons? Would Bomana be a fun place to visit? Let us know in the comments!