The Top 30 Prison Documentaries (Ranked with 2024 Update)

Jails, justice and, even, jokes.

Welcome to a roller-coaster of prison docs.

“Time: The Kalief Browder Story” pulls at heartstrings, while “13th” slams you with cold, hard stats.

And we’ve got the big-boys of prisons like Angola and Parchman.

You even get the teenage turmoil of “Girls Incarcerated”.

And 6 of the prison docs below are on Netflix including the first two.

FYI — a couple of the docs below are also on my list of The Best Social Justice Documentaries (12 of them ranked).

Editorial Update April 15, 2024 — If you’ve been to this page before, you might remember that it used to be a Top 20 list. I’ve now added 10 new docs (including “The Farm: Angola”, some Netflix prison docs I missed last time and a couple of new 2024 docs)

Here are my top 30 prison docs (with a new “2024 Coming Soon” section too).

1) Time: The Kalief Browder Story

My Score: 99/100

Remember “The Shawshank Redemption”? If you appreciated that, you’ll like “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” on Netflix.

Rapper Jay-Z co-produced this revealing docuseries after he met Browder after his (spoiler alert!) release.

Not fiction, but a searing reality, Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old (yes, sixteen) gets accused of theft.

His crime? Allegedly stealing a backpack.

He awaits trial… for three grueling years at Rikers Island. No conviction. A bulk of it in… solitary confinement.

Director Jenner Furst (of “Brick City” fame) paints a disturbing image. It’s New York… but not the glamorous side. The legal system’s dark side.

A highlight of the doc?

When the prison guards’ indifference is glaringly exposed. At Rikers, minutes feel like hours… days become years.

Why wasn’t the judiciary’s lethargy highlighted more?

Watch this doc on Netflix at

Note: This is not a Netflix Original so I’m not sure how much longer you can watch it on Netflix.

2) 13th


Netflix also nabs the #2 best prison documentary with “13th”.

In the U.S., 5% of the world’s population are Black but they account for 25% of its prisoners.


Director Ava DuVernay (remember “Selma”?) answers. 13th – an amendment that abolished slavery but led to… mass incarceration.

It’s “Bowling for Columbine” meets criminal justice reform.

Ever heard of ALEC? They draft laws… and not in our favor.

Branded prisons profit from… well, us.

Great scene on Nixon’s war on drugs. I mean… come on, Dick!

Missing? I wish they’d compared the U.S. prisons to international. There must be some other country doing better than us!

Watch this doc on Netflix at or for free on YouTube here:

And the good news is that “13th” is a Netflix Original so it should be streaming there for eternity.

3) The Farm: Angola, USA

I can’t believe I missed this classic the first time I wrote this “Best Prison Docs” article!

“The Farm: Angola, USA” is the best documentary on Angola Prison I’ve found.

Angola Prison is called “The Alcatraz of the South” (it’s official name is The Lousiana State Penitentiary). Some also say it bears similarities to Parchman Prison (see the JAY-Z doc lower in this list for more on Parchman).

Angola, once a slave plantation, sits surrounded on three sides by the Mississippi River, a sprawling complex of concrete and razor wire.

There are 5,000 inmates here.

Eighty-five percent of the prisoners who enter the gates, die here.

This is the story of six men trying to overcome the odds.

Directors Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack take us deep inside Angola’s world.

We meet men like George Crawford, serving a life sentence, and Eugene “Bishop” Tannehill, preaching redemption in the prison church.

Their stories are raw, honest, and often heartbreaking.

The documentary refuses to romanticize prison life.

Violence, despair, and injustice are ever-present. But amid the darkness, there are flickers of light.

Inmates find solace in faith, friendship, and small moments of dignity.

You can watch “The Farm: Angola, USA” for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or here:

4) Taxi to the Dark Side


Afghan taxi driver Dilawar of Yakubi. Simple job, right? Wrong. Dilawar is taken… by U.S. forces. Dies within days.

Alex Gibney (behind the shocking “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) unearths the truth. Torture techniques. Gloomy cells.

Ever seen “Zero Dark Thirty”? This is its real, darker twin.

Real footage from Bagram. It’s brutal. Unfiltered. Hard to digest.

105 deaths in detention and 37 of the are classified as “homicides”. The coroner who saw Dilawar says “his limbs looked like they’d been run over by a bus.” Had he lived, it would have been necessary to amputate his legs.

Can we even trust authorities anymore? Guantanamo Bay looks like a picnic in comparison. A lot of cringe-worthy moments. Like when that MP talked about… “standard procedure.”

I’d have loved more on the decision-makers behind these… “procedures.”

Watch “Taxi” for free (with library card) on Kanopy at; on Peacock at; on PlutoTV (with ads) at; or Amazon’s Freevee (with ads) at

5) 26 .2 to Life: Inside the San Quentin Prison Marathon

I haven’t rated it yet but IMDB has it as 9.0/10 with 65 votes.

I’ve only seen the trailer but boy doe”26.2 to Life: The San Quentin Prison Marathon” look good.

Directed by Christine Yoo, this 2022 doc takes us inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison, where three men sentenced to life for murder decide to run a marathon. Yeah, you heard that right—a marathon, but not just any marathon. These guys are running 105 laps around a crowded prison yard as part of the 1000 Mile Club. And let me tell you, it’s as intense as it sounds.

Prisoners Markelle Taylor, Tommy Lee Wickerd, and Rahsaan ‘New York’ Thomas are the stars of this show.

They’re not just running to stay fit; they’re chasing redemption, a sense of achievement, and maybe even a bit of freedom, whatever that looks like for them.

The cool part? They’ve got a team of volunteer coaches, all veteran marathoners, who are there every step of the way, training with them through the year.

It’s about more than just running; it’s about building a community that sticks, inside and outside the prison walls.

Winner of a dozen festival awards, “26.2 to Life” really makes you think about resilience, second chances, and the human spirit. It’s a powerful reminder that everyone has the potential to change, no matter where they are.

You can watch it on ESPN April 8, 2024 and ESPN2 (release date April 20, 2024). It’ll then be on ESPN+

Check here for the latest streaming options:

6) The Art of Incarceration


In “Art of Incarceration” (2019), filmmaker Alex Siddons takes us to Victoria’s Fulham Correctional Centre.

It’s where indigenous prisoners are finding hope and rehabilitation through art.

At the heart of the story is prisoner Christopher Austin.

He paints Aboriginal heritage in intricate detail.

It’s become a form of redemption:

“Painting has helped me find myself again,” he reflects.

Some dismiss prison art programs as frivolous.

But Siddons shows how ransformative art can be to someone who has lost everything.

For Austin and the other Fulham artists, painting is a lifeline.

It’s a way to reconnect with their culture and envision a future beyond cell bars.

Watch “The Art of Incarceration” on Netflix at

It’s not a Netflix Original so enjoy it while you can.

7) The Work


Folsom Prison. Tough guys. Tougher emotions. Civilians and convicts… healing together.

Director Jairus McLeary focuses on a four-day therapy retreat in this 2017 doc.

It’s raw. Emotionally charged.

A murderer sharing his fears.

The toughest facades… often hide the softest hearts.

You can watch “The Work” for free on Kanopy (with a library card) at or rent it from a bunch of others.

8) The Mark of Cain


Ever seen Prison Break? Now, imagine it merging with an ink-drenched Inception. That’s “The Mark of Cain”.

This doc dives into Russian prison tattoos.

It’s directed by Alix Lambert (she did Ambiance Man series with Fred Armisen and Jack Black)]) and has 90 minutes of raw reality.

I’m not a tattoo guy.

But these tattoos? They’re prisoners’ histories, worn like medals (or chains).

Mikhail, 52, becomes our guide.

His first tattoo? At 17. Each one chronicles decisions, affiliations, and deeds.

A gripping scene?

MIKHAIL: “This one? Three years, solitary.”

GUARD: “Worth it?”

MIKHAIL: “It was… then.”

Lambert exposes a world where tattoos are more than ink. They’re a life map. A spider signals a career criminal, while eyes on the chest mean one’s always watching.

As Mikhail unveils his past, you’re taken through Russian crime hierarchies and their silent, brutal rules.

Brutal visuals may deter some. If you prefer lighter topics, maybe skip this one.

But if raw, real-life stories captivate you, it’s a must-watch. Eye-opening, it leaves a mark. Pun intended.

Watch The Mark of Cain for free on YouTube at

9) College Behind Bars


Dead Poets Society meets Orange Is the New Black? That’s “College Behind Bars”.

This doc (224 minutes over 4 parts), directed by Lynn Novick, shines a light on a unique pursuit: higher education in prison.

The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) offers inmates a chance at college degrees. Dyjuan, 27, is our lens. He seeks redemption… and a diploma.

DYJUAN: “Education? My way out.”

INMATE: “Physically or mentally?”

DYJUAN: “Both.”

In this doc, cells transform into classrooms. Challenging courses, from calculus to literature, are tackled.

However, external criticisms loom. Some question: Should taxpayers fund prisoners’ education?

It might rile up those against prison reform or education funding. Yet, for those yearning to witness transformation, it’s money. .

Watch it for free on PBS at or Hoopla (requires library card) at You can also watch it on Amazon (with a free PBS trial) at

10) Prison Riot, U.S.A. (The Lucasville Prison Riot Documentary)


On Easter Day, 1993, the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville erupted into chaos.

For 11 days, inmates took control.

They demand better living conditions and religious rights.

It’s the longest prison riot in U.S. history.

The uprising is a powder keg. It’s fueled by overcrowding, frustration, and simmering tensions between inmates and staff.

In the end, one officer and nine inmates lost their lives. Twenty-one staff members were held hostage. The scars ran deep.

But amid the violence, there are glimmers of humanity.

Inmates protect hostages from harm. Negotiations are earnest, if imperfect.

And when the standoff ends, there was a shared sense of exhaustion and loss.

The Lucasville riot remains a painful chapter in Ohio’s history.

It’s a stark reminder of the challenges facing our prison system and the human costs when it fails.

But it’s also a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, even in the darkest of circumstances.

Thirty years later, the lessons of Lucasville continue to resonate – a somber, cautionary tale for us all.

You can watch “Prison Riot U.S.A.” on the “Captive” docuseries on Netflix — it’s Season 1, Episode 1 (it first aired on December 9, 2016). Captive is a Netflix original so Prison Riot should stay put there.

You can also watch it for free on Daily Motion here:

11) The Fear of 13


Nick Yarris, a death row inmate. 21 years. Director David Sington, famed for “In the Shadow of the Moon,” crafts this 96 minute doc.

Nick is no ordinary convict. Accused? For sure. But after two decades on death row, he surprises: he asks to die.

Details emerge… 1982, Nick gets wrongly convicted for rape and murder. Fast-forward 21 years. DNA evidence flips his narrative. I hope I didn’t spoil too much there.

You’ll learn about evidence mishandling, police shortcuts, and legal oversights. But it’s Nick’s personal evolution that’s gripping. He’s not just recounting years in jail; he’s delving into a journey of self-discovery.

He teaches himself to read. Finds solace in books. As Nick puts it, “Books became my escape pod.”

For skeptics, Nick’s storytelling might feel rehearsed. But it’s hard to imagine he’s rehearsing the emotions.

This doc isn’t just about a man and his prison story; it’s about the flaws in the justice system.

Watch it for free on YouTube at or rent it on AppleTV at

12) Attica (2021)

I give the 2021 “Attica” the edge over the 1974 documentary of the same name (which I also cover below).

The new Attica doc clocks in at 2 hours (40 minutes more than the ’74 doc).

That’s no surprise (given that the 2021 doc had 47 years to work on making it better). 🙂

But, seriously, I give it the slight edge because:

  • It’s more comprehensive (including more interviews with inmates and guards as well as historians
  • It shows new archival footage
  • It gives historical perspective (mainly how the Attica prison riot affected society up until the present). That makes it more educational.

Ok, now back to my review:

Attica (2021) Directors Stanley Nelson and Traci Curry take us back to the infamous prison riot in September in 1971.

It’s when inmates at Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York rose up against inhumane conditions.

For five days, we witness tense negotiations, a sense of hope, and ultimately, a tragic betrayal.

The filmmakers weave together powerful interviews with former inmates, hostages, and family members.

We hear the tremor in their voices as they recount the horror of the state’s violent retaking of the prison.

“Attica” is a gut punch. It forces us to confront the brutality and racism baked into our criminal justice system.

But it also shows us the humanity of those caught in its gears. We see the inmates’ courage, the guards’ fear, and the families’ anguish.

This is not an easy watch. But it is an essential one. “Attica” demands that we look, that we remember. It is a clarion call for justice that we ignore at our own peril.

Watch Attica on Paramount+, Showtime, Fubo (with subscription) or you can buy it for around $9.99 from Amazon, YouTube and Vudu.

See here for the latest streaming options:

But in case

13) Attica (1974)

“Attica” (1974) is the original documentary on the Attica prison riot from Cinda Firestone. .

Even though I give “Attica” (2021) the slight edge, some of you will prefer the doc that was more recent to the event.

This original “Attica” came out just 3 years after the riots.

It’s got more of a raw feel to it.

Much of it is in black and white.

Some interviews are audio-only.

Some of the visuals are newspaper clippings with audio interviews.

So it’s a bit harder to follow who’s speaking.

But this is what Firestone had to work with at the time.

If the ’74 “Attica” was the only doc on the infamous prison riot, I’d highly recommend it.

And if you’re obsessed with prison docs, you’ll probably watch both!

You can watch “Attica” (1974) for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or here:

14) Unlocked: A Jail Experiment


This 8-part prison docuseries on Netflix is based on a bold experiment in “Correctional Science” by Pulaski Country Sheriff Eri Higgins.

He is going to unlock the doors inside the Pulaski Country Regional Detention Facility in Little Rock Arkansas.


Prisoners will now get to mingle with each other with…wait for it…no deputies or guards protecting them from each other.

The prisoners will have 6 weeks “to prove that they can act more like people and not criminals,” Higgins says.

These are all felons (drug charges, battery, murder).

Most of them are waiting for trial. Some are waiting to go to prison to start their time.

Most are spending 23 hours in cells.

This docuseries is not for the faint-hearted.

Episode 1 opens with a series of prison fights.

The inmates are aware of the documentary but don’t know about the bold experiment.

I’m just finishing up E.1 right now.

Watch “Unlocked: A Jail Experiment” on Netflix here: It’s an original series so it should stay on Netflix.

15) Solitary


Ever felt alone? Try solitary. 8′ 10′ cell. Alone. 23 hours a day.

Kristi Jacobson takes the helm here. Known for “A Place at the Table,” this doc kinda reminds me of “Shutter Island.” Only, it’s real. It’s at the supermax Red Onion State Prison (Virginia.).

The first 2:30 about how one young man grew up in school shoving bullies’ heads in the toilet. That hooked me.

Inmates, some with violent histories, tell their stories. One inmate confides, “Days turn into nights… nights into days.” They’re not exaggerating.

The guards? They have stories too. One says, “It’s just a job.” But his eyes tell a different tale. We see the system’s strain on both sides of the bars.

It’s heavy, this doc. But it asks crucial questions. About humanity. About punishment. About reform.

Watch it for free on YouTube at or on HBO Max at

16) Doing Time, Doing Vipassana


Ever heard of meditation transforming a prison? “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana” uncovers just that. Stillness tackles chaos.

Set in India’s largest prison, Tihar Jail, the doc showcases Kiran Bedi – the first woman to join the Indian Police Service. Her vision? Introducing Vipassana, a meditation method, to reform hardened criminals.

The scenes? Inmates, once violent, now sit in silence. Self-realization replaces rage. The turning point – a 10-day meditation course. Astonishingly, the walls of Tihar echo with peace, not pain.

But it’s not all “serenity now”. Struggles exist. Resistance, relapse, and then, redemption. Quotes from inmates dive deep, like:

INMATE: For the first time, I met myself.”

Critics? Some say it’s too optimistic, doubting long-term change. Yet, for believers, it’s hope in a 52-minute reel. Heartfelt interviews, stark prison realities, and the soothing calm of Vipassana intertwine beautifully.

Ending on a hopeful note, the doc pushes boundaries. Spirituality meets the penal system. Final thoughts? A transformative watch. Dive in if you seek change and mindfulness. Watch this on platforms offering indie documentaries.

17) Fourteen Days In May


Have you ever counted 14 days? In this doc, every second is palpable. Directed by Paul Hamann, it chronicles the final two weeks of Edward Earl Johnson, a man on death row in Mississippi for murder and attempted rape.

It’s 1987 and Johnson, 26, still maintains his innocence. The clock’s ticking. Lawyers scramble. Witnesses raise doubts.

The climax? An emotional final interview hours before his midnight execution. The atmosphere? Tense, tragic, tangible.

Throughout, we meet prison staff and families. Their lives? Forever entwined with Johnson’s. The line between justice and morality blurs. Questions arise. Is this justice? Or an irreversible mistake?

Hamann captures more than just a countdown. He delves into a flawed system, the agonizing wait, and the humanity of those involved. Fourteen Days In May is a haunting reminder of the stakes in capital punishment.

Watch this for free on YouTube at

18) Behind Bars: The World’s Toughest Prisons


Best Prison Documentaries -- Behind Bars: The World's Toughest Prisons
Source: Screenshot is from

Ever imagined a world so brutal, even the fearless tremble? This doc thrusts us into six prisons, four continents. Each, tougher than the last. Where even gang leaders reckon with terror.

The prisons are:

S1 E1: Tent City Jail, Phoenix, Arizona, USA:
Tent City, with its vintage army tents from the Korean War, offers a harsh environment where harassment and humiliation are daily bread. Sheriff, tight-fisted, refuses to splurge on inmates, making Tent City an emblem of punitive austerity.

S1 E2: Antanimora Prison, Madagascar:
Swamped with over 3,000 prisoners, Antanimora, originally designed for 800, has become a hotspot of disease, rats, and severe overcrowding. This prison, encircled by Antananarivo, stands as a poignant testament to desolation.

S1 E3: San Pedro Prison, La Paz, Bolivia:
In the perilous confines of San Pedro, guards dare not enter. Ruled by its own inmates, this chaotic realm is home to murderers, drug lords, and rampant anarchy. Survival here hinges on sheer might and wit.

S1 E4: Dallas County Jail, Dallas, Texas, USA:
The Dallas County Jail, boasting a capacity for 7,100 inmates, teems with tension. The prime menace? Turf wars. The jail’s overpopulation sparks ceaseless gang conflicts over the ever-shrinking territory.

S1 E5: Sofia Central Prison, Sofia, Bulgaria:
Sofia Central, on the brink of decay, stands as a relic destined for demolition. In this dreary space, inmates endure crammed bunks and spend a grueling 23 hours a day caged, only to be haunted by the prison’s grim solitude.

S1 E6: Miami, Dade County Jail Boot Camp, Miami, Florida, USA:
The M-D County Jail’s stern Boot Camp division offers delinquents a shot at redemption. Through grueling routines, it stands as a haven compared to the main jail, a den where the most sinister create their own brutal hierarchy.

Watch it for free on Magellan at or on PlutoTV (with ads) at or

19) Solitary Nation


Solitude. But not the peaceful kind. Dan Edge (Inside Japan’s Nuclear MeltdownKill/CaptureThe Wounded Platoon) delves into Maine’s high security prison system.

One inmate recalls a harrowing episode where he hallucinates, hears voices and almost loses his sanity.

Watch the full doc for free on PBS at

20) Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail


Jeff Ross. Comedian. Brazos County Jail? Unlikely venue. Humor meets the incarcerated. Think “Saturday Night Live” in jumpsuits. The roast of that biker? Priceless. Balancing laughs with lessons? Ross nails it.

One gripe? Would’ve liked more inmate backstories.

Watch this doc on Paramount+ at or Comedy Central (through your TV provider) at;.

21) Inside Death Row with Trevor McDonald

Locked away… forgotten? “Inside Death Row with Trevor McDonald”, British icon McDonald interviews inmates facing death sentences at Indiana maximum-security prison.

One highlight: James, convicted at 32, shares his fateful robbery night. Tears in eyes, he admits taking innocent lives, remorse palpable.

Another, Michael, sentenced at 26, describes seeking spiritual redemption.

It’s not just criminals sharing stories. Guards voice their struggles. Officer Martinez recounts witnessing multiple executions and the heavy toll it takes.

Yet, it’s Trevor’s emphathetic approach that resonates. He listens to a guard’s tale about inmate friendships, showcasing his signature empathy.

Watch this on ITV.

Watch it on YouTube for free at or on Freevee (free with ads) at

22) Death Row 2018 with Trevor McDonald


McDonald’s back. Different year. New stories. Death row, post-2018. The changes? Minimal. The despair? Eternal. Trevor’s chat with William Gibson? Dark yet profound. Feels like “Inside Death Row” but updated. Gritty. Raw.

Wanted? A bit more on legal battles and appeals.

Watch this doc for free at YouTube at . I see some other streaming options here though they links were off when I tried (so just check yourself):

23) Hard Time


Best Prison Documentaries
National Geographic TV Series “Hard Time”

“Hard Time” reveals the gritty reality within America’s toughest penitentiaries during its 2009-2013 series.

Every episode unearths hidden facets of prison life. Season 2 shows Carlos, a 21-year-old inmate in Georgia’s Hays State Prison — he narrates his initiation into gang life.

In Season 3, we witness the extreme conditions at Alaska’s Spring Creek Correctional Center. Then there’s the 50-year-old jailhouse lawyer, Patrick, in Ohio’s Ross Correctional Institution, fighting his own cases and aiding others.

Yet, beyond inmate tales, we’re thrust into guards’ worlds. Officer Martin’s rookie year in Nevada’s High Desert State Prison becomes an eye-opener. He grapples with daily threats, proving that both sides of the bars brim with tension.

Right now, I’m only seeing options to purchase the entire seasons. Check for streaming options.

24) Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons


“Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons” plunges viewers into these grim realities, led by journalists Raphael Rowe and Paul Connolly.

From Central America to Europe, this doc crosses continents. Each episode tackles a new prison, revealing harrowing inmate experiences and intricate jailhouse politics.

Raphael, once wrongly imprisoned, provides a unique lens, blending empathy with probing questions.

Highlights include:

Brazil’s Porto Velho Penitentiary, where gangs rule, and violence is rampant; The Philippines’ Manila City Jail, overcrowded and stifling, echoing with tales of despair.

The series also covers Poland’s Piotrkow Prison, home to notorious mobsters and murderers.

My only complaint: They haven’t covered Russia’s Black Dolphin Prison (which many say is the toughest prison).

Watch it on Netflix at

25) 60 Days In


Ever thought you’d volunteer for jail? “60 Days In” throws ordinary folks into that exact chaos. A reality series twist: participants aren’t convicts, but undercover civilians.

Season after season, jails across the U.S. become the stage. Volunteers assume fake identities, infiltrating the system. Their mission? Expose flaws from the inside.

Three standout moments:

  • ROBERT: This teacher’s bravado quickly crumbles. Claims of undercover operations expose his cover.
  • TAMI: A former cop, her intense clashes with inmates reveal prison hierarchies.
  • ZAC: The ex-Marine befriends inmates, uncovering hidden contraband networks.

The doc pulls no punches. Fights erupt. Tensions mount. It’s raw, unfiltered prison life. Volunteers wrestle with fear, some even calling it quits.

However, “60 Days In” isn’t just shock TV. It paints a bigger picture—issues like prison corruption, inmate treatment, and rehabilitation (or lack thereof).

Some critics argue it borders on exploitation. Others praise its eye-opening exposé.

Watch it on A&E (8 Seasons), Hulu (7 seasons) or Netflix (1 season). Here are all the options:

26) Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail


Louis Theroux takes us into Miami’s “Mega Jail” prison system with his usual awkwardly gripping style.

Some key scenes:

KEVIN: A young offender, barely 18, talks about the violent initiation he faced. His eyes, filled with fear, tell more than his words.
ROBERTO: Locked up for a minor offense, his biggest challenge? Surviving the notorious practice “The Program” where inmates brutally police themselves.
MARCO: A 40-time repeat offender, Marco’s weary resignation makes you question the penal system. His tales, punctuated by Louis’s pointed questions, are a lesson in life’s harsh realities.

Watch it on BBC Select through options here:

27) Girls Incarcerated


Best Prison Documentaries
Screenshot from Netflix at

When you think of teenage girls, school drama and first loves might come to mind. But “Girls Incarcerated” paints a much grimmer picture.

Memorable scenes:

BRIANNA: 17, with a sharp wit and sharper tongue, recounts her life before bars. Her longing for family is palpable.

NAJWA: Spirited and headstrong, her clashes with authority highlight the struggles of finding oneself amidst chaos.

SARAH: At 15, her vulnerability is juxtaposed with her crimes, prompting introspection: How did she get here?

Each episode is a rollercoaster. Moments of defiance give way to touching displays of camaraderie and resilience. As viewers, we’re not just bystanders; we’re drawn into their journey, their struggles, and their small triumphs.

It’s not an easy watch. It’s super sad (especially stories of the girls’ parents not being as available to them as you’d like to see).

Watch it on Netflix at

28) Lock-Up: The Prisoners of Rikers Island


Lock-Up into Rikers Island Prison (the same one that Kalief Browder spent time in).

This daunting island, notorious in reputation,

Viewers meet “Tiny”, barely an adult, yet facing hard time. Another? “Coco” – her resilience amidst despair resonates. The footage, stark and visceral, jolts us. It’s claustrophobic, echoing the inmates’ stifled lives.

Directors Jon Alpert and Nina Rosenblum take no prisoners… metaphorically. They present Rikers, no frills attached.

Watch it on HBO Max at

29) Exposing Parchman

Roc Nation and A&E put out two-hour documentary on Mississippi’s Parchman Prison (which many say has similarities to Angola (see above).

It’s air date was June 17, 2023.

Parchman is the place that’s been headlines since 2019 for its horrendous conditions and tragic deaths.

But this isn’t just about showing you the grim realities. This doc is about pushing for real change.

Produced by Jeanmarie Condon and directed by Rahman Ali Bugg, we get unprecedented access inside Parchman.

Inmates have risked everything to share cell phone footage, giving us a raw look at life behind bars.

High-profile figures like JAY-Z and Yo Gotti aren’t just watching; they’re actively fighting for the cause.

They support lawsuits that have already sparked a major U.S. Justice Department investigation.

We’ve got interviews with everyone from JAY-Z to frontline activists and the families suffering through this ordeal.

Where to watch “Exposing Parchman” — you can watch it:

Check back here for more streaming options:

30) The 15 Scariest Prisoners of the Black Dolphin Prison

Here are profiles of some bad men from the infamous Black Dolphin Prison (it’s official name is Penal Colony No. 6) in Orenburg Oblast, Russia.

It’s nicknamed Black Dolphin because there is a statute of a black dolphin just outside the prison.

Black Dolphin is one of the oldest prisons in Russia. It houses 700 of Russia’s worst criminals (serial killers, terrorists, cannibals).

Inmates are kep in cells that have 3 steel doors.

They are forced to stand for all 16 hours of awake time each day (they’re allowed to sleep the other 8).

Prison guards put blindfolds on new inmates as they arrive so that they can not map escapes.

They’re also blind-folded whenever they are moved from one cell to another.

You can watch “The 15 Scariest Prisoners of Black Dolphin Prison” for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or here:

I’m still looking for this doc on Black Dolphin

I’m trying real to find a documentary called “Russia’s Toughest Prisons” from 2011. This gets a 6.5 rating on IMDB (480 votes).

But, I can’t find any trailer or video from the doc.

The IMDB description for “Russia’s Toughest Prisongs” mentions that the doc also looks at 2 other Russian prisons: Vladimir Central and Siberian Prison Camp 17.

Prison Docs Coming in 2024 and Beyond

“Daughters” (2024)

The documentary “Daughters” got some buzz at Sundance.

8 years in the making, this doc covers prison life but from a different angle. It profiles young girls whose dads are behind bars.

But it’s not all gloom—there’s real love here too, from dads who are trying their hardest to connect despite the distance.

In-person visits? Those were axed across the U.S. back in 2014, leaving families to rely on expensive video calls to keep in touch.

It’s a raw deal that benefits the companies running these services more than the families.

Enter Angela Patton, co-director, who gained special access to a D.C. jail’s ‘Date With Dad’ program.

Over 12 weeks, incarcerated dads work on mending and strengthening bonds with their daughters, prepping for a symbolic dance that marks their journey towards a better future.

Natalie Rae, the other half of the directing duo, spent five years with the daughters and moms, digging into their stories.

It was available online for the public to watch January 25-28, 2024. But then it got withdrawn.

I’ll let you know when I see an option come up to stream it.

Thanks for reading

Rob Kelly

Chief Maniac, Daily Doc