prison documentaries

5 prison documentaries that will challenge your views

Introduction prison documentaries

For some people,prison documentaries is a scary place. For others, it’s a necessary option for helping criminals get back on the right track. Regardless of your personal beliefs about incarceration, these documentaries will challenge them and force you to confront some uncomfortable truths about our prison system and its impact on families.

OUT OF SIGHT: The Sentencing of American Women

If you’re like most people, your assumptions about prison life are probably based on what you’ve seen in the media and heard from friends or family who have been incarcerated.

You might believe that male prisoners are more likely to commit violent crimes, whereas female prisoners are more likely to be imprisoned for nonviolent offenses. But this isn’t true—in fact, women are actually more likely than men to be incarcerated for crimes related to mental health issues or drug use (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics).

In this episode of Out of Sight: The Sentencing of American Women, director Amanda Liss examines how these stereotypes contribute to a system that disproportionately punishes women who are poor and often struggling with mental illness or addiction.

Through interviews with former inmates as well as activists fighting for prison reform (like Daniele Bolelli), Liss explores how such systemic biases lead many women into a cycle of incarceration that ultimately harms their families and communities—and destabilizes our society at large.

The Farm

The Farm is a documentary directed by Jennifer Fox that focuses on the experiences of incarcerated women and their families. The film follows the lives of four women who are serving time at the largest women’s prison in the United States.

Danbury Federal Correctional Institution (FCI). The subjects are Fox’s mother, sister, aunt and cousin respectively. The women were convicted of crimes ranging from drug smuggling to embezzlement to murder.

The film was released in 2013 and screened at many international film festivals including Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival before being broadcast on PBS’ POV series later that year.

Life and Death Row

There are many documentaries about prisons, but if you haven’t seen any of the following, you should definitely check them out.

  • Life and Death Row (part of PBS’ POV series) is a fascinating look at the US prison system—what goes wrong and what can go right. It follows three inmates on death row as they await their executions.
  • The film explores the reasons why they were sent to prison while also looking at how their lives have changed since they’ve been there. You’ll see how much support these men receive from family members who visit often and offer support through letters, phone calls, and visits in person when possible.
  • Silenced is another documentary filmed by Showtime’s 60 Minutes team that takes an in-depth look at how wrongful convictions happen—and what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future.
  • This documentary follows one man’s 20-year fight to prove his innocence after being convicted for murder based solely on eyewitness testimony from a single person who claimed she saw him commit the crime but later recanted her statement entirely when presented with new evidence (which was never disclosed during trial).
  • We learn about how eyewitness testimony can be unreliable due to factors like stress levels during questioning or even just having had too much beer beforehand.

Our America with Lisa Ling: Inside Women’s Prisons

If you’re looking for a documentary that’ll challenge your perceptions, this might be the one. Our America with Lisa Ling: Inside Women’s Prisons is about women in prison and all of the issues surrounding them.

It looks at how prison affects families, what it means to be a woman in prison and how women are treated differently than men in prison—for example, they have to wear uniforms while men don’t. The show has interviews with women who have been released from jail or had loved ones incarcerated themselves to get their perspectives on what life was like before they were locked up and what it’s like now.

Family Incarceration

Family Incarceration

One of the most important issues that needs to be addressed in our prison system is family incarceration. In this documentary, women discuss how they were incarcerated for a variety of crimes, but the majority of them had children who were left behind to live with other family members or friends.

Many of their children were also taken away from them by Child Protective Services and put into foster care. Most prisoners are not granted visitation rights with their loved ones while they’re serving time because they haven’t been able to get back on track after being released from prison.

Also read : America’s 10 Most Dangerous Prisons


  • The takeaway: As you can see, these documentaries tell stories of individuals and families who have been affected by the prison system. These films offer a window into what it’s like to be incarcerated, whether you’re in solitary confinement or an immigrant detention center.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about prison issues, check out our guide on the topic.


So, we hope that you’re now ready to go out and watch some prison documentaries. They’re a great way to learn more about life behind bars and have the potential to open your eyes up to things you never thought possible before. At the very least, they’ll give you some good entertainment.