Inside The Worlds Toughest Prisons

Inside The Worlds Toughest Prisons

Netflix Series
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Ever wanted to know what life is like Inside The Worlds Toughest Prisons? Now you can as Raphael Rowe spends a week locked up in some of the most deprived and intimidating prisons around the world.

Inside the World's Toughest Prisons is a Netflix documentary series that takes viewers into the harrowing and most notorious prisons around the globe.

Hosted by investigative journalists Paul Connolly in the first season and Raphael Rowe from the second season onwards, the series blends raw realism with a human narrative.

It offers a lens into the lives of inmates and prison staff, the deplorable conditions they endure, and the broader context surrounding each institution.

The show, through its seasons, reveals the stark contrast in prison conditions worldwide. It also shines a light on the variances in justice and penal systems. And it raises significant questions about human rights, punishment, and rehabilitation.

What Is Inside The World's Toughest Prisons About?

The series is primarily focused on providing an insider’s view of the daily life and challenges within the prisons featured in each season, illustrating both the physical and psychological aspects of incarceration.

Each episode takes the audience through the routine and rules that govern these establishments. It portrays the relationships between inmates, and between staff and prisoners.

The series also delves into the reasons behind the incarceration of various inmates, sometimes raising questions about the fairness and justice of their sentences.

In addition to portraying life inside the prisons, the show also explores the societal and systemic issues contributing to crime and imprisonment in each featured country.

It provides context on the social, economic, and political factors that influence the functioning of the prisons and the treatment of the inmates. This enhances the depth of the narrative, adding layers of understanding and engagement for those of us watching at home.

However, this documentary series is elevated because of the personal perspective and experiences shared by the host, Raphael Rowe, who himself was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years.

Rowe’s insights and empathy bring a unique and compelling angle to the series, as he navigates through the harsh realities of prison life.

And it is his interactions with inmates and staff that allow for a more nuanced and balanced view of the people inside these tough walls.

Inside The World's Toughest Prisons Trailer

Is Inside The World's Toughest Prisons Worth Watching?

Each season is as gritty and shocking as the one that came before it. This is probably why every new season makes its way into the Netflix Top 10 around the world.

After all few of us will ever experience any like these conditions in our lifetime so it makes for compelling viewing, if only to remind us how good we have it on the outside.

With only four episodes in each season, it's an easy binge-watch even if it does leave you more than a little shocked and uncomfortable.

The show does exactly what it says on the tin and takes you inside some of the most deprived, horrifying prisons anywhere in the world. Hosted by Raphael Rowe, this British journalist spends a week locked up inside each prison to really show us what life is like behind these bars.

Often the poorest inmates must scavenge through the waste for items they can sell while the rich inmates can pay for better-quality lodgings and food. Good or bad, innocent or guilty, life is a daily struggle of simply trying to stay alive for most of these prisoners.

Drugs are rampant, stabbings are a daily occurrence and when night falls, the guards are all but gone and it's every man for himself.

Interestingly, Rowe has managed to highlight the huge disparities between countries and their prison systems.

Do facilities that are impeccable with mutual respect between guards and inmates provide better results than the others featured in the series? Rowe is there to find out.

Overall, Inside The World's Toughest Prisons is a gem of a documentary series that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of a world most of us will never know about.

While it could certainly benefit from a more in-depth exploration of the programs available in the prisons and provide a more balanced representation of prison staff perspectives, it is still a great watch.

What Are The Prisons Featured In The Documentary Series?

Season 1

Danli Prison, Honduras: Danli Prison is known for its overcrowding and gang-dominated environment. It is home to a mix of inmates, including violent offenders and those involved in gang activities.

Piotrków Prison, Poland: Poland's Piotrkow Prison is known for keeping its inmates in their cells 23 hours a day, in what is a very claustrophobic experience.

El Hongo Prison, Mexico: El Hongo is a maximum-security prison housing some of Mexico’s most dangerous criminals, including drug lords and murderers, in an isolated and heavily guarded environment.

Rizal Jail and Iwahig Prison, Philippines: Iwahig serves as an open-air prison farm, where inmates, including murderers and rapists, work on agricultural projects as part of their rehabilitation.

Rizal Jail is notorious for extreme overcrowding and insufficient facilities, holding a diverse population of inmates with varying criminal records.

Season 2:

Porto Velho Penitentiary, Brazil: Notorious for its harsh conditions, gang violence, and overcrowding, housing some of the country's most dangerous criminals.

Zhytomyr Prison, Ukraine: Unusually this prison is run by a skeleton crew that allows prisoners to freely roam around the grounds, often with potentially dangerous weapons.

Bomana Prison in Papua New Guinea: known for its near-constant food shortages that keep the facility on the brink of chaos.

Belize Central Prison, Belize: This prison holds a variety of inmates, including murderers and drug offenders, in a setting known for its efforts toward rehabilitation and education.

Season 3:

La Reforma Prison, Costa Rica: known for its overcrowding and tense atmosphere, it houses a diverse population, including those convicted of minor offences to individuals involved in serious crimes like murder and drug trafficking.

Narco Prison, Colombia: this fortress-like prison in Bogotásuffers from claustrophobic conditions and problems of drug use despite a lot of monitoring and searching by the authorities.

Craiova Prison, Romania: Craiova holds inmates with various criminal records, often grappling with overcrowding and challenges related to rehabilitation and reintegration.

Halden Prison, Norway: Halden is renowned for its humane approach to incarceration, housing inmates with various criminal backgrounds and focusing on rehabilitation and reintegration.

Season 4:

Tacumbu Prison, Paraguay: Tacumbu holds a reputation as being the most dangerous prison on earth. With overcrowding and harsh conditions, its inmates frequently have to scavenge for food just to stay alive.

Schwalmstadt Prison, Germany: This is a multi-security level facility known for its structured environment and diverse inmate population. It houses some of Germany's worst offenders.

Melrose Maximum Security Prison, Mauritius: Melrose is a high-security facility housing a mix of inmates, and is known for being an extreme punishment prison, with a focus on rehabilitation and education.

Maseru Central Prison, Lesotho: Maseru Central is known for its overcrowded and outdated facilities, housing inmates convicted of a variety of crimes, including theft and violence.

Season 5:

Brandvlei Correctional Centre, South Africa: here nearly all the inmates belong to dangerous gangs known for lethal stabbings.

Manila City Jail, Philippines: known for being one of the world's most overcrowded prisons.

Nuuk Maximum Security Prison, Greenland: home to extremely dangerous men, many of whom grew up alongside the guards given the relatively small population of the country.

Season 6:

Penitentiary 17, Moldova: a prison where nearly 100 of the convicts are life sentence inmates.

Central Jail of Nicosia, Cyprus: a multifunctional correctional facility housing a diverse population of inmates, in an environment that aims to balance security with rehabilitation.

Zenica Prison, Bosnia: known as the Mafia Prison

Greece: known as the People Smugglers Prison, overcrowding is the main focus inside a prison in Greece housing many of the worst offenders in the system.

Season 7:

Kylmäkoski Prison, Finland: Raphael meets violent offenders in the general population wing and bonds with the inmates, while a newcomer is attacked.

Pilsen Prison, Czech Republic: known as the Crystal Meth prison, this is a correctional facility known for its strict regimen and housing a variety of inmates, in a setting focused on rehabilitation and reintegration.

Bangli Prison, Indonesia: known for its emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration, housing a diverse inmate population convicted of various offences, including drug-related crimes and violent acts, in a structured and secure environment.

Rove Maximum Security Prison, Solomon Islands: a high-security facility known for housing the country’s most dangerous criminals.


  • Incredible Insight Into Places You Will Never Visit
  • Good Variety In The Prisons Visited
  • Excellent Host In Raphael Rowe


  • Some Prisons Are Incredibly Shocking
  • Leaves You Cold (But That's The Point)
  • Only 4 Episodes Per Season



  1. I was looking for a commentary section but was unable to find one. Rowe to me is so ignorant for someone who all his liberty was taken can suggest after watching his 5 th season, and I’m not one to jump the gun and offer my opinion. He is in Lesotho and trying to understand sexual violence from an English point of view! Your country is responsible for creating this environment for one. Did it happen previously, yes I’m sure. England is responsible for 90 % of the world problems as the 2nd from last empires. America is the last. Biblical if you are to admit it. England dominated these cultures and refused to create or enforce their beliefs, yet now stand judging them. Are you now trying to help them? No. You through the WHO and other organizations putting bandages but not getting to a truth. This place has zero! No healthcare no rehab not nothing. Shame on you and Netflix. You profit from this but offer nothing I see. You had the ability to get out of a wrongful conviction, they don’t. This was a first for me to watch this and I will forever suffer. You put something on my conscience I cannot remove. I doubt I will ever seriously be able to remove this burden you put on me. You will never respond to me I’m sure!

  2. The one about Lesotho is hardly the world’s worst prison by any stretch of the imagination. The presenter came acrossbas being totally ignorant of the countey he was in. He hadn’t done any research on the culture and the standard of living in that country. He came across as being sanctimonious and what’s with all the subtitles on people who spoke better English than the presenter. Its a fail for me.


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