Life as a prisoner today varies widely by the type of crime committed, the facility one is confined to, and of course, the country of incarceration.

While you may have “experienced” prison life via reality television in recent years, odds are that the actual experience is much more severe than the television programs portray.

No matter what type of prison one is sent to, the universal punishment will be the immediate loss of control of every aspect of one’s life – when to sleep, when to work, when to eat, when and how one can communicate or have visitors.

Different Types of Prisons

That said, the severity of the environment can vary greatly, from the minimum security prisons (so called “country clubs”) for non-violent offenders in the US, like celebrity Martha Stewart’s stay (described as “America’s cushiest prison“) or financier Ivan Boeksy’s stay in Southern California, to notorious prisons like Mexico’s Centro de Ejecucion de Sanciones. At the latter facility, its often difficult to tell who is in charge, the staff or the inmates. Prisoners are often locked up 24/7 for their own protection, or fear of violence from competing gangs with the prison environment. One’s life is as pleasant or unpleasant as can be determined by bribes and/or favors.

Minimum Security Facilities

The opposite end of the spectrum are the minimum security facilities, which often lack fences or walls, and prisoners are allowed a great deal of freedom in terms of personal movement, how they spend their days, and even a higher quality of food. At these types of facilities, many amenities are on hand that are not available at prisons that house more serious violators – such as access to the internet, cable television, classes and rehabilitation / job training. At some of these prisons, inmates are permitted to work off site and return to their cells each evening.

But overall, no prison experience is a good one, and its best to stay away from them, unless you’re visiting an inmate, or engaging in prison tourism.