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Inside the World's Toughest Prisons

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Inside the World's Toughest Prisons
Presented byPaul Connolly (season 1), Raphael Rowe (season 2–present)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languagesEnglish (presenter), local languages of countries whose prison systems were visited (Spanish, Portuguese, German, Greek, Norwegian, Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Tagalog, Tok Pisin, Greenlandic, Sabela, Mauritian Creole, Afrikaans, Finnish, Indonesian, Czech)
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes27
Executive producers
  • Emma Read (Emporium)
  • Gabe Solomon (Emporium)
  • Olivia LaRoche for season 2 onward (commissioned the show for Netflix)
Original release
ReleaseApril 12, 2016 (2016-04-12) –

Inside the World's Toughest Prisons is a television documentary series produced by London-based Emporium Productions[1] and available on Netflix.[2] The documentary shows life in various 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.[3][4] Since the second season, the series has been 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] The series's seventh season was released on 15 September 2023.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
First releasedLast releasedNetwork
14April 12, 2016 (2016-04-12)May 4, 2016 (2016-05-04)Channel 5 & Netflix
24July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)Netflix
34December 14, 2018 (2018-12-14)
44July 29, 2020 (2020-07-29)
53January 9, 2021 (2021-01-09)
64September 28, 2022 (2022-09-28)
74September 15, 2023 (2023-09-15)

Season 1 (2016)[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 to 7.[2]

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
11"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.
22"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.
33"Mexico"March 3, 2016 (2016-03-03)
Connolly spends time in Mexico's El Hongo prison.
44"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 (2018)[edit]

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

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
51"Brazil: The Gang Prison"July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)
Rowe spends a few days as both a guard and as a prisoner 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.
62"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.
73"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.
84"Belize: The Prison that Found God"July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)
Rowe spends time in Belize Central Prison in Belize. Distinguishing features of the prison: an approach to rehabilitation based on evangelism (God).

Season 3 (2018)[edit]

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

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
91"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.
102"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.
113"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 prisoners 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.
124"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.

Season 4 (2020)[edit]

Season 4, produced by Netflix with host Raphael Rowe, was released on July 29, 2020 on Netflix.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
131"Paraguay: The Most Dangerous Prison on Earth"July 29, 2020 (2020-07-29)
Raphael Rowe spends a week behind bars at Tacumbú prison in Paraguay, where inmates scrounge in the trash in order to pay their own way.
142"Germany: The Therapy Prison"July 29, 2020 (2020-07-29)
Schwalmstadt, a 12th-century fortress surrounded by a moat, houses some of Germany's worst offenders, many of whom attend intense therapy sessions.
153"Mauritius: The Extreme Punishment Prison"July 29, 2020 (2020-07-29)
The tropical island of Mauritius is home to Melrose maximum security prison, where even the smallest infraction is met with extreme punishment.
164"Lesotho: Confronting Sexual Violence"July 29, 2020 (2020-07-29)
An unnerved Rowe contends with aggressive cellmates at Maseru prison, where a high number of inmates are behind bars for rape.

Season 5 (2021)[edit]

Season 5, produced by Netflix with host Raphael Rowe, was released on January 9, 2021 on Netflix.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
171"South Africa: The Number Gangs Prison"January 9, 2021 (2021-01-09)
At Brandvlei Correctional Centre in South Africa, nearly all the convicts belong to dangerous gangs known for lethal stabbings.
182"Philippines: The War on Drugs Prison"January 9, 2021 (2021-01-09)
Once again, Raphael Rowe volunteers to go behind bars, this time in the Philippines at Manila City Jail, one of the world's most overcrowded prisons.
193"Greenland: Prison in the Ice"January 9, 2021 (2021-01-09)
Greenland's Nuuk maximum security prison houses extremely dangerous men, many of whom grew up alongside the guards now watching over them.

Season 6 (2022)[edit]

Season 6, produced by Netflix with host Raphael Rowe, was released on September 28, 2022 on Netflix.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
201"Moldova: The Lifers Prison"September 28, 2022 (2022-09-28)
At Penitentiary 17 in Moldova, nearly 100 of the convicts are life sentence inmates.
212"Cyprus: The Utopian Prison"September 28, 2022 (2022-09-28)
Once again, Raphael Rowe volunteers to go behind bars, this time in Cyprus at the Central Jail of Nicosia.
223"Bosnia: The Mafia Prison"September 28, 2022 (2022-09-28)
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rowe volunteers to go inside Zenica prison.
234"Greece: The People Smugglers Prison"September 28, 2022 (2022-09-28)
This time, overcrowding is the main focus inside a prison in Greece housing many of the worst offenders in the prison system.

Season 7 (2023)[edit]

Season 7, produced by Netflix with host Raphael Rowe, was released on September 15, 2023 on Netflix.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
241"Finland: The Free Choice Prison"September 15, 2023 (2023-09-15)
At Finland's Kylmäkoski prison, Raphael meets violent offenders in the general population wing and bonds with the inmates, while a newcomer is attacked.
252"Czech Republic: The Crystal Meth Prison"September 15, 2023 (2023-09-15)
Surrounded by many inmates who struggle with crystal meth addiction, Raphael enters the Pilsen prison and discovers that some habits are hard to break.
263"Indonesia: The re-programming drug prison"September 15, 2023 (2023-09-15)
Raphael gets a rare look inside Bangli prison, where drug offenders are forced to join a rehabilitation program and isolation is used as punishment.
274"Solomon Islands: God’s Own Prison"September 15, 2023 (2023-09-15)
At the Rove maximum security prison, many of the inmates serve time for sexual offenses while navigating grim conditions and extremely limited resources.


  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]