Filming the obscurity

How a documentary series captures the living conditions of prisoners around the world.

< image © Netflix.

“Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons” is a popular Netflix documentary series that covers prison conditions around the world. Each episode has a specific theme and covers a single prison in a given country. Prisons are often opaque, and the public is generally uninformed on what goes on in them. Authorisations are often required to visit them or to publish information about them. This makes it difficult for journalists to do their job and expose the reality of prisons to the general public. “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons” gives viewers a visual representation of what daily life is like for prisoners around the world.

Raphael Rowe was incarcerated for 12 years for a crime he did not commit. Since his release and acquittal, he has been a journalist for over 20 years covering prison conditions, criminal justice and the criminalisation of poverty in the UK. He is the host of the Netflix documentary series “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons”. He is also the director of the Raphael Rowe Foundation which aims to mobilise actors from around the world to improve conditions of detention. Prison Insider asked him three questions.

I try to engage with the people I meet and allow them to authentically express themselves.

It's about juggling between taking the time to look at the things the prison wants us to see, but also the things we want to see.

I constantly receive messages from all over the world from people who've just watched the programme and want to know what more can be done.