Inside the World's Toughest Prisons

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Inside the World's Toughest Prisons
Presented byPaul Connolly (Season 1), Raphael Rowe (Seasons 2 and 3)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English (presenter), local languages of countries whose prison systems were visited (Spanish, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Romanian, Polish)
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes12
Executive producer(s)
  • Emma Read (Emporium)
  • Gabe Solomon (Emporium)
  • Olivia LaRoche for season 2 onward (commissioned the show for Netflix)
External links

Inside the World's Toughest Prisons is a three-season television documentary produced by London-based Emporium Productions[1] and available on Netflix.[2] The documentary shows life in 12 prisons around the world, mostly from the prisoner perspective but also including the perspective of prison guards and others interacting with the prison system. Season 1 was hosted by Irish journalist Paul Connolly and originally aired on Channel 5 (UK).[3][4] Seasons 2 and 3 were commissioned by Netflix and hosted by UK journalist Raphael Rowe, who had himself served 12 years in prison for a crime he was eventually acquitted of.[1][5][6][7]


Season 1[edit]

Season 1, hosted by Paul Connolly, was aired in 2016 on Channel 5 in the United Kingdom.[4] It is now available on Netflix along with Seasons 2 and 3.[2]

No.TitleOriginal air date
1"Honduras"April 20, 2016 (2016-04-20)
Connolly spends a week inside Danli prison in Honduras. Distinguishing features of the prison: the toughest inmates are armed and act as enforcers for the overwhelmed guards.
2"Poland"April 27, 2016 (2016-04-27)
Connolly spends time in Poland's Piotrków prison. Distinguishing features of the prison: prisoners have to stay in their cells 23 hours a day, and the prison experience is quite claustrophobic.
3"Mexico"March 3, 2016 (2016-03-03)
Connolly spends time in Mexico's El Hongo prison.
4"Philippines"May 4, 2016 (2016-05-04)
Connolly spends time in two prisons in the Philippines. Distinguishing features of the prison: overcrowding, gangs, and intimidation are a way of life.

Season 2[edit]

Season 2, produced by Netflix with host Raphael Rowe, was released on July 6, 2018 on Netflix.

No.TitleOriginal air date
1"Brazil: The Gang Prison"July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)
Rowe spends a few days as both a guard and a prison in Brazil's Porto Velho penitentiary. Distinguishing features of the prison: constant tensions and risk of violence and riots between Brazil's two leading drug gangs, the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) and Comando Vermelho (Red Command), due to which the prison guards attempt to segregate the prison based on gang affiliations.
2"Ukraine: The Prison in a War Zone"July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)
Rowe spends time in Ukraine's Zhytomyr prison. Distinguishing features of the prison: a skeleton crew that allows prisoners to freely roam around the grounds, often with potentially dangerous weapons.
3"Papua New Guinea: The Breakout Prison"July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)
Rowe visits the short-staffed Bomana Prison in Papua New Guinea. Distinguishing features of the prison: near-constant food shortages that keep the facility on the brink of chaos.
4"Belize: The Prison that Found God"July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)
Rowe sends time in Belize Central Prison in Belize. Distinguishing features of the prison: an approach to rehabilitation based on evangelism (God).

Season 3[edit]

Season 3, produced by Netflix with host Raphael Rowe, was released on December 14, 2018 on Netflix.

No.TitleOriginal air date
1"Costa Rica: Prison on a Knife-Edge"December 14, 2018 (2018-12-14)
Rowe spends time in Costa Rica's La Reforma Prison, including a visit to the maximum-security part and time spent in the medium-security and low-security parts. Distinguishing features of the prison: the medium-security part of the prison is quite overcrowded and depressing, but the low-security part of the prison feels much more welcoming.
2"Colombia: Narco Prison"December 14, 2018 (2018-12-14)
Rowe spends time in the fortress-like prison in Bogotá, Colombia. Distinguishing features of the prison: claustrophobic conditions and problems of drug use in the prison despite a lot of monitoring and searching by the authorities.
3"Romania: Gypsy Prison"December 14, 2018 (2018-12-14)
Rowe spends a week in a maximum security prison in Craiova, Romania. Distinguishing features of the prison: very little outdoor space, so prisons are kept locked in their cells most of the day. Also, the Romani people make up over half the prison population, significantly overrepresented relative to their share of the overall Romania population.
4"Norway: The Perfect Prison?"December 14, 2018 (2018-12-14)
Rowe spends time in Halden Prison in Norway, a maximum-security prison. Distinguishing features of the prison: Halden is experimenting with a radically new prison structure based on the principle of normality: try to make prison life closely approximate life outside prison, so as to rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them for successful reentry into society.


  1. ^ a b c Clarke, Stewart (June 19, 2018). "Netflix Locks Up Deal for 'Inside the World's Toughest Prisons'". Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Inside the World's Toughest Prisons". Netflix. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  3. ^ "Inside the World's Toughest Prisons". Channel 5. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Harding, Nick (February 10, 2016). "Inside The World's Toughest Prisons: Paul Connolly spent time in Poland's Piotrkow for Channel 5 series". The Independent. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  5. ^ White, Peter (June 19, 2018). "Netflix Goes 'Inside The World's Toughest Prisons' With Latest Factual Original". Deadline. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Lease, Lawrence; Flowers, Jane (June 20, 2018). "Netflix brings a new four-part series of 'Inside the World's Toughest Prisons' next month". BlastingNews. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  7. ^ Cobb, Kayla (July 12, 2018). "'Inside the World's Toughest Prisons' Looks at Prison Life From an Insider's Perspective". Decider. Retrieved June 2, 2019.

External links[edit]