5 Prison Documentaries That Will Shift Your Perspective
Published Sept 26, 2021
Prison documentaries have existed for decades. However, in the last couple of years, new ones have been released that have significantly raised the bar for what we can expect. They also provide us with a wealth of comparisons to help us find the absolute best prison documentaries on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO.
These documentaries are no longer filled with brawls, rants, and surveillance videos (though you still get your fair share of that). Now, we have unparalleled access to recordings, conversations with “lifers,” and a better knowledge of our prison system as a whole with the implications for society.
These prison documentaries will not only delight you but will also cause you to reassess all you thought you knew about our justice system and those imprisoned.
Without a doubt, 13th is one of the best Netflix prison documentaries available.
However, it is distinct from the majority of the other films on this list since it does not center on life behind bars. Instead, it concentrates on the entire prison system, its history, and the deeply disturbing racial imbalance that has come to define it.
Your mind will be flooded with new information, and you’re certain to question everything you thought you knew.
This is a wonderful and extremely well-produced prison documentary that everyone should watch.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Time: The Kalief Browder Story is an incredible Netflix prison documentary series that takes viewers inside one of the most infamous jails in the United States — Rikers Island.
This heartbreaking prison documentary follows Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old boy imprisoned for allegedly stealing a backpack — an allegation he vehemently disputes.
Despite the absence of evidence and Kalief’s unwillingness to take a plea agreement, he was kept on Rikers Island for over three years without being convicted of a crime, spending over 700 days in solitary confinement.
With an actual film of Browder’s brutality on Rikers Island, including assault, torture, and mental abuse, it’s difficult to believe that such atrocities occur in the United States.
This is without a doubt one of the best prison documentaries available on Netflix, so add it to your queue anyway.
Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison
Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison is an incredible HBO prison documentary with a unique perspective that will captivate you — it is almost entirely narrated by prisoners who have spent years (for some, decades) in solitary confinement.
Whatever your beliefs, this will alter your perspective on solitary imprisonment.
You get to see the quarters these men live in, their access to nature (or lack thereof), and the effect this form of incarceration has on their mental health.
This exceptionally well-produced prison documentary will educate you about one (critical) aspect of our current jail system.
Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail
Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail is one of the most in-depth examinations of what life is like for inmates in one of the largest jail systems in the United States.
Louis Theroux is an incredible journalist and producer who can communicate with inmates in ways that most people cannot, which means you get to hear what they’re thinking, feeling, and why they’re doing things.
Prison (and jail) are not like the “real world,” as this prison documentary demonstrates.
This is an excellent Netflix prison documentary, so put it at the top of your queue immediately! It is unquestionably one of the best.
Survivors Guide to Prison
Survivors Guide to Prison is a unique, unsettling, and eye-opening documentary on our current judicial system and the people who fall victim to it due to Matthew Cooke’s perspective.
This new prison documentary examines a variety of issues affecting our prison and justice systems, ranging from erroneous convictions and police abuse to solitary confinement and jail sentence length.
What makes Survivors Guide to Prison so unique and compelling is that the book is written nearly entirely from the perspective of an inmate.
And, believe it or not, the former inmates who narrate this video are more relatable than you might imagine, lending this prison documentary an unsettling sense of “oh boy, this might happen to me.”
There are plenty of others, but these are unquestionably the best prison documentaries currently available on Netflix, HBO, or Amazon Prime. What are you waiting for? Turn on your television, phone, or computer now!
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About The Author
Krizzia Paolyn is an SEO Specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. It has always been her passion to share her voice, and at the same time, to encourage other people to speak up.