8 Must-See Prison Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything - The Documentary Reviewers (2022)

Prison documentaries have been around for decades. But over the last couple of years, new ones have been released that have completely raised the bar for what we can expect, giving us a ton of comparisons to find the absolute best prison documentaries on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO…and really anywhere else that’s willing to produce a great prison documentary.

No longer are these documentaries full of fighting, rants, and security footage (though you still get your fair share of that). Now we’ve got access to unprecedented footage, interviews with “lifers”, and a deeper understanding of our prison system as a whole…and what that means for society.

These prison documentaries will not only entertain you, they’ll make you rethink everything you knew about our justice system and the people behind bars.

So if you’re in the mood for some good Netflix prison documentaries (we’ve got some HBO and Amazon Prime ones too!), look no further. Here’s our list of the best:

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8 Must-See Prison Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything - The Documentary Reviewers (1)

13th is without a doubt one of the best Netflix prison documentaries out there.

But it differs from a lot of the other films on this list because it doesn’t focus on life behind bars. Instead, it focuses on the whole prison system, the history of it, and the very unsettling racial disparity that has come to define it.

Your head will be filled with so many new facts that you’re bound to rethink everything you thought you knew.

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This is a brilliant and very well-done prison documentary that should be a must-watch for everyone.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story is an unbelievable prison documentary series from Netflix that gives you a terrifying glimpse into one of the United States’ most infamous jails – Rikers Island.

This gut-wrenching prison documentary tells the devastating story of Kalief Browder, a 16-year old boy that was arrested for stealing a backpack – something he adamantly denies.

Despite the lack of evidence and Kalief’s refusal to accept a plea deal, he was held inside Rikers Island for over 3 years without ever being convicted of a crime, with over 700 of those days being spent in solitary confinement.

With actual footage of Browder’s mistreatment inside Rikers Island, including assault, torture, and mental abuse, you’ll find it hard to believe that this kind of injustice occurs in the United States.

This is definitely one of the best prison documentaries on Netflix, so add it to your queue no matter what.

8 Must-See Prison Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything - The Documentary Reviewers (2)

Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison is an amazing HBO prison documentary with a unique angle that will completely captivate you – it is almost entirely from the perspective of prisoners that have spent years (for some, decades) in solitary confinement.

No matter what you believe, this will change how you think about solitary confinement.

You see first hand the cells that these men live in, the access they get to the outdoors (or lack there of), and the impact this type of incarceration has on their mental state.

This is a really well-produced prison documentary that will open your eyes to one (very important) slice of our current prison system.

(Video) Prison State (full documentary) | FRONTLINE

Solitary: Inside Red Onion State is an HBO Documentary. If you don’t have HBO right now, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial right here → HBO Free 7-day Trial

Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail gives you one of the most in-depth views of what life is like for the inmates of one of the US’s largest jail systems.

Louis Theroux is an amazing journalist and producer who’s able to carry a conversation with the inmates in a way most people can’t…which means you get to really hear what they’re thinking, feeling, and why they’re actually doing things.

The world of prison (and jail) is not like the “real world” and this prison documentary really shows that.

This is a really great Netflix prison documentary, so add it straight to the top of your queue! It’s definitely one of the best.

8 Must-See Prison Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything - The Documentary Reviewers (3)

Matthew Cooke’s perspective in Survivors Guide to Prison makes this prison documentary a unique, disturbing, and eye-opening film about our current justice system and the people that find themselves victim to it.

This new prison documentary covers a ton of topics pertaining to both our prison and justice systems from wrongful convictions and police abuse to solitary confinement and the length of prison terms.

What makes Survivors Guide to Prison so unique and captivating though is that it is almost entirely from the inmate’s perspective.

And believe it or not, the former inmates narrating this film are more relatable than you’d think, which gives this prison documentary a very creepy “oh boy, this could actually happen to me” kind of feel.

The Fear of 13 is definitely one of the best prison documentaries out there, narrated entirely by Nick Yarris, an inmate on death row.

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Yarris’ accounts of his life, what got him to death row, and what it’s like to be an inmate are so captivating that you’ll forget he is the only person featured in this entire prison documentary.

But the ending is what will really get you…and it will certainly make you rethink our justice system.

The Fear of 13 is an absolutely amazing prison documentary that has somehow flown under the radar, but that only makes it that much better.

This is another one of the great prison documentaries on Netflix, so definitely add to your queue!

Nowadays, when Netflix releases a new docuseries, you better clear your calendar because they’ve all been home runs.

And that is absolutely the case with I Am a Killer, the newest in the growing family of Netflix prison documentaries.

Each episode profiles a different inmate on death row…and each case is a unique, shocking, and terrifying glimpse into the complexities of capital punishment.

From teenagers sentenced to die to inmates requesting their own execution, there is no question you will begin questioning your stance on capital punishment and our justice system after you’ve watched this series.

Once again, Netflix has produced a captivating series that is absolutely one of the best prison documentaries currently available to stream.

8 Must-See Prison Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything - The Documentary Reviewers (4)

Rock and a Hard Place is a special kind of prison documentary because it doesn’t focus on the crimes or life behind bars.

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Instead, it profiles a rehabilitation boot camp in Miami that is offered to young and juvenile offenders in place of their potential prison sentence…which for some, could be life in prison.

What is so eye-opening about this documentary though is to realize that these young men are adults, but at the same time still children.

They committed armed robberies and assaults, but at the end of the day, they still cry for their moms.

And that may be what makes this kind of rehabilitation program so powerful – and a great documentary.

In the world of prison documentaries, you don’t often see second chances or happy endings, but Rock and a Hard Place manages to give you both.

There are so many others out there, but these are definitely the best prison documentaries that you can find right now on Netflix, HBO, or Amazon Prime. If you know of others that you think need to be added to this list, just let us know in the comments!

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FAQs

What are the most common problems in prison? ›

Some common conditions include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Recent research by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that more than half of all people in prison have mental health issues. In fact, around 1.25 million inmates live with mental health conditions.

Which prison is the toughest? ›

1. Carandiru Penitentiary. Carandiru Penitentiary in Brazil, South America is arguably the most violent and deadly prison in the world. In 1992, a violent prison massacre occurred when 102 inmates were shot dead.

What should I watch after 60 days? ›

Other good TV and movies recommended for 60 Days In fans include Making a Murderer and Jailbirds.
...
  • Women Behind Bars. ...
  • Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. ...
  • Live PD. ...
  • Jailbirds. ...
  • Girls Incarcerated. ...
  • Lockup. ...
  • Snapped: Killer Couples. ...
  • My Strange Addiction.
21 Oct 2020

How do you survive a prison documentary? ›

Survivors Guide to Prison is a 2018 documentary film directed by Matthew Cooke exploring the United States prison system, largely through the lens of two wrongly convicted men, Reggie Cole and Bruce Lisker.

Where is the most secure prison in the world? ›

ADMAX Florence United States Penitentiary, also known as ADX Florence, Florence ADMAX, Supermax, or the Alcatraz of the Rockies, is an administrative maximum-security penitentiary located in Fremont County near Florence, Colorado.

How does prison change a person? ›

Research shows that, while it varies from person to person, incarceration is linked to mood disorders including major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. The carceral environment can be inherently damaging to mental health by removing people from society and eliminating meaning and purpose from their lives.

How do prisoners feel in jail? ›

Prison: Prisoners are confined to a restricted space. Prolonged stay in the prison may lead to intense depression, which can persist even after their release. Missing loved ones: Prisoners feel loneliness, as they are isolated from their family and loved ones. They recall the days spent outside prison.

What is the difference between a jail and a prison? ›

Is It 'Jail' or 'Prison'? Jail and prison are often used interchangeably as places of confinement. If you want to be specific jail can be used to describe a place for those awaiting trial or held for minor crimes, whereas prison describes a place for criminals convicted of serious crimes.

Which country has the best prisons? ›

Norway has consistently ranked number one on a number of lists entailing the best, most comfortable prisons in the world.

Is 60 Days In jail on Netflix? ›

Recruited by a sheriff, volunteers infiltrate county prisons to expose corruption and crime from within the system in this docuseries. Watch all you want.

Where can I watch 60 Days In Australia? ›

Watch 60 Days In Now on Stan.

What is a Level 5 prisoner? ›

5. Administrative. This special class of prison encompasses other types of institutions designed to house inmates with special considerations, such as those who are chronically ill, extremely dangerous or a high-escape risk.

Who escaped prison the most times? ›

Mark DeFriest (born August 18, 1960), known as the Houdini of Florida, is an American man known for his repeated escapes from prison, having successfully done so 7 times.

Has anyone escaped Alcatraz? ›

Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin and his brother John Anglin escaped from the notorious penitentiary with a raft made of raincoats and left behind plaster dummies in their beds. In 1962, three inmates escaped from the notorious Alcatraz Island penitentiary and were never seen again.

Can prison change your life? ›

Prison changes people by altering their spatial, temporal, and bodily dimensions; weakening their emotional life; and undermining their identity.

Do prisoners regret their crimes? ›

Most inmates say they regret their crimes, Reside says. “It's a weird experience to be sitting two feet away from someone who is awaiting their execution,” he adds. “What you are struck by is their humanity. You've got to square who they are in class every week with what they did.

Does prison really work? ›

Sending an individual convicted of a crime to prison isn't a very effective way to deter crime. Prisons are good for punishing criminals and keeping them off the street, but prison sentences (particularly long sentences) are unlikely to deter future crime.

Do you get pillows in jail? ›

Some jail administrators make some comfort items, such as better-quality shoes and better food, a reward for inmate workers or for good behavior. Some jails put comfort items like extra pillows or shoe insoles on the inmate commissary for purchase.

How often do inmates shower? ›

E-1. Inmates may shower anytime during out-of-cell time, except during meals or head counts. Inmates in cells may wash their bodies at any time using the cell sink. Inmates must shower or wash their bodies at least twice a week.

What time do prisoners go to bed? ›

24 Hours in Prison
HOURMINIMUMMEDIUM
6:00-7:00time for religious and specialized programming such as religious services, narcotics anonymous, anger management
8:00return to dormreturn to dorm
9:00-10:00remain in housing area
11:00lights out; go to sleep
14 more rows

Can you smoke in prison? ›

When was smoking banned? Smoking has been banned in all prisons in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales since 2015. While South Australia is due to follow in 2019, smoking is still permitted in prison cells in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

What are people called in jail? ›

Of the options it offered, 38 percent picked “incarcerated person”; 23 percent, “prisoner”; and nearly 10 percent, inmate. Thirty percent selected “other” (“person in prison,” “man or woman,” “the person's name.”)

What are the 4 types of prisons? ›

Facilities are designated as either minimum, low, medium, high, or administrative; and facilities with different security levels that are in close proximity to each other are known as prison complexes.

Where is the smallest jail? ›

Canada has the world's smallest jail – in Rodney, Ontario; it's only 24.3 square meters (270 square feet).

Are there prisons for the rich? ›

Two counties in Southern California have at least 26 such "pay-to-stay" jails, a joint collaboration between The Los Angeles Times and The Marshall Project found.

Are there luxury prisons? ›

Norway's Halden Prison is often called the world's most humane prison. Inmates can make music, learn woodwork skills and cook their own food, preparing them for life outside. Despite criticism that it's too luxurious, Norway has achieved one of the lowest reoffending rates in the world.

Are there luxury prisons in USA? ›

San Quentin Prison is located next to San Francisco, California, and is known as one of the most “humane and luxurious” prisons in the world. It was founded in 1852 and now houses more than 4,000 prisoners, all of whom are men, including more than 700 death row prisoners.

What states have the nicest prisons? ›

Hawaii ranks first in the nation for corrections. New Hampshire places second in this subcategory, followed by Vermont, Utah and Maine. Learn more about the Best States for corrections below.

What are jails like in Dubai? ›

Dubai's prisons are famed for their filthy conditions and brutal treatment of their inmates - with beatings, starvation and overcrowding all too common. But while you might expect prisoners subjected to such torture to be locked up for murder or rape, Brits have been severely punished for seemingly trivial 'crimes'.

Does jail have Internet? ›

Currently all institutions operated by the Bureau of Prisons have TRULINCS. However outside of the TRULINCS program, nearly all states prohibit Internet use by inmates, severely limiting technology-based access to educational opportunities.

Who has the most prisoners in the world? ›

1). There are more than 10.35 million people incarcerated throughout the world with the most being in the United States--more than 2.2 million. Seychelles has the highest prison population rate in the world with 799 per 100,000 of its total population. It is followed by the United States (698), St.

Which country has the least prisons? ›

Surprisingly, Netherlands is a country that has no one to put behind the bars. 5 years ago, in 2013, Netherlands had 19 prisoners only and now in 2018, this country doesn't have any criminals.

What is the name of the prison show on Netflix? ›

Recruited by a sheriff, volunteers infiltrate county prisons to expose corruption and crime from within the system in this docuseries.

What Netflix movie is a prison? ›

Best prison movies on Netflix:

The Fear of 13. Riot. Shot Caller. The Platform.

What is the name of the women's prison show on Netflix? ›

After trying to kill her violent husband, Bea Smith is locked up in prison, where she's taken under the wing of a lesbian drug dealer and her friends.

Is 60 days in real? ›

Is '60 Days In' real or scripted? According to one of the stars from 60 Days In, the show isn't as real as you might think. Rob Holcomb told Radar Online that the show's creators heavily edited major scenes. He said, “The show is real, but the editing was fake.

What's the toughest prison in America? ›

USP ADX Florence houses male inmates in the federal prison system deemed the most dangerous and in need of the tightest control, including prisoners whose escape would pose a serious threat to national security.

Why is there no prison break on Netflix? ›

Due to copyrights, Prison Break was removed from Netflix and is not streaming on Disney Plus and its subsidiaries worldwide.

What is a good jail show? ›

10 Best TV Shows About Prison, According To Ranker
  • Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979) ...
  • Girls Incarcerated (2018) ...
  • For Life (2020) ...
  • 60 Days In (2016) ...
  • Escape At Dannemora (2018) ...
  • Orange Is The New Black (2013) ...
  • Oz (1997) ...
  • Wentworth (2013)
2 Jul 2022

What prison movie was based on a true story? ›

Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

Maybe one of the most memorable Clint Eastwood films in which the iconic actor/director doesn't play a cowboy or cop, Escape From Alcatraz was based on a real-life escape attempt from Alcatraz, the famous island prison located in San Francisco Bay.

Does Netflix have Shotcaller? ›

Is Shot Caller on Netflix? Yes, the 2017 prison movie, shot caller, is now available on the Netflix film streaming platform, as it was released on the platform on December 9, 2019.

Is The Platform still on Netflix? ›

The Platform (Spanish: El hoyo, transl. The Hole) is a 2019 Spanish social science fiction horror film directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.
...
The Platform (film)
The Platform
Distributed byFestival Films (Spain) Netflix (International)
Release dates6 September 2019 (TIFF) 8 November 2019 (Spain) 20 March 2020 (Netflix)
17 more rows

Did Netflix remove Wentworth? ›

'Wentworth' on Netflix Canceled: Why the Show is Ending After Season 9.

Why was Wentworth Cancelled? ›

On March 18, 2020, TV Tonight confirmed production of the second part of the eighth and final season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. The 10-episode first part of eighth season is still scheduled to air from July 2020.

Who killed the governor on Wentworth? ›

Governor Meg dies - Season 1, Episode 1

Case in point, the grisly prison riot murder of firm-but-fair prison governor Meg Jackson (Catherine McClements) at the hands of inmate Franky Doyle (Nicole Da Silva) .

Do you get paid for 60 days? ›

At most, they are getting paid about $3,000 per episode." As the most recent season of the show (Season 6) had 18 episodes, this represents a potential payout of around $54,000 for the show.

Is there 60 Days In 2 months? ›

The 60 Days is equal to 1.9726 Months (approximately 2 months).

Is there a UK version of 60 Days In? ›

The show is currently airing on the Crime & Investigation channel in the UK as The Jail: 60 Days In.

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