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3 Takeaways from Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons

inside prison walls

How Some Prisoners Experience Life Behind Bars

If you are facing criminal charges and questioning what to expect if you get convicted, Netflix has some answers. Although the streaming platform does not qualify as legal counsel, it does give some insight into the realities behind bars that many people otherwise wouldn’t know about.

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons is a docuseries that takes viewers on a trip to dangerous prisons around the world. It’s nothing close to the trip you would expect, however. Each episode features a different prison around the globe and educates viewers on the processes, conditions and shocking truths in these brutal institutions. The unfiltered portrayals of prison life are some of the most jaw-dropping sights one can witness.

The host, Raphael Rowe, was once a prisoner himself. He spent 12 years in prison for crimes he never committed: Murder and robbery. Now, he leverages his horrifying experiences to help other people understand what it’s like behind bars. Although he visits the world’s toughest prisons, which don’t reflect the operations of all US prisons, there are some consistent truths in every episode:

Alliances are key: While gangs are criminalized in US society, they are described by Rowe as one of the most valuable tools to stay safe in certain prisons. In nearly every episode, Rowe relies on the safety net provided by prison gangs.

Prison can be deadly: One might think that prison guards and officials have the inmates’ best interests in mind, but in the Netflix show, you will soon learn that sometimes it can be the opposite, at least in the prisons featured on the show. Among the highest priority for prison officers is to properly secure and control inmates. But since the number of inmates outweighs that of prison guards, anything can happen. In many episodes, prison guards aren’t aware of the crimes being committed under their watch: Rape, assault, drug possession, murder and other crimes can go unnoticed.

Once a prisoner, always a prisoner: The damage prison can do to an inmate is far-reaching and life-changing. A common thread in the Netflix original show is that there are a high number of re-offenders. A leading reason for the high re-offense rate among prisoners in the show is their lack of opportunities in the “real world.”

A criminal record makes it tough to get a job, housing, and access educational and social opportunities. Many formerly-incarcerated people in the show end up in the streets or join gangs as a result of such barriers. Further, episodes revealed that gang ties made within certain prisons prevail in the free world, whether a person likes it or not. This means that the chances of re-offending are higher for many prisoners because they have no way of escaping gang life.

The Show Does Not Reflect Most US Prisons

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons is a show full of extremes. After all, the show literally explores the world’s toughest prisons. If you haven’t watched the show and plan to, you may notice that the series does not accurately reflect the circumstances and conditions of many US prisons. Most episodes take place in second and third world countries, whose social and economic conditions are entirely different from those in the US.

But there are several underlying truths to the three takeaways above. When clients come to us for help fighting their criminal charges, one of their primary concerns is what will happen if they get convicted and sentenced to jail. Although our Santa Barbara criminal defense attorneys go above and beyond to help prevent and mitigate the effects of a conviction, we are honest with every client about their best and worst-case scenarios. Our lawyers are equipped to thoroughly and transparently explain what clients may expect in Southern California incarceration facilities.

We strongly advise against basing your opinion of California prisons from Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons. The best option is to consult our knowledgeable Santa Barbara criminal defense attorneys at Appel & Morse to get professional legal advice. Call (805) 467-6060 today.