The management of the Patarei Prison Museum in Tallin, Estonia has resisted the temptation to clean the place and make it tidy. Patarei was established in the 19th century and it has been in use until 2002. It was used as a tool of Soviet oppression for years. The museum concept is extremely confronting. While a visit to the prison can be disturbing, especially to people with hidden guilt complexes, it is claimed also to be therapeutic, serving as a powerful reminder of the value of freedom.
Most of the facilities are intact and very vicious. There are still blood stained clothes, and even surgical tools left in the prison hospital. Objects belonging to prisoners have been left behind. Evidence of KGB cruelty is everywhere.
The museum has developed a tour for those who are not afraid of a harsh experience. They will be carefully humiliated and locked up for three hours. As it says in the sales materials: “In the administration rooms, the participants’ – or rather the prisoners’ – papers are accepted; they are searched, and their photos and fingerprints are taken. Soon after, they are taken to their cells, then escorted to eat prison food and to exercise. Those deemed hardened criminals are interrogated and transferred to death row or to the execution room, where their sentence is read and their punishment carried out. Those who are freed after serving their sentence receive their files from the prison director, and they have to promise not to commit any more crimes. The safety of the participants is guaranteed throughout the adventure. They can quit the game at any time, or alternatively, opt to become a prison guard.”