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  • Lotan Diker

Series review: Inside the toughest prisons in the world, producer: Raphael Rowe, 2022

Most of us are quite oblivious to the living conditions of prisoners, they grab a few headlines in the newspapers and then move on. Despite their uncomplicated lives, there are shocking places with a marked inhumanity. Rafael Rowe is a convicted prisoner, who spent 12 years in prison for no wrongdoing. He decided, after becoming a journalist, to spend a week inside the harshest and most difficult prisons in the world.

For six seasons now, he has been reviewing the most remote and neglected places there are. Starting from Costa Rica where gangs rule to the Philippines with the overcrowding and dirt that is in every corner. From an approach that is not judgmental at all, he entered the prison as a prisoner without concessions and would even sleep and eat with the prisoners. The look is very authentic, we manage to be directly exposed to the lives of those who are forced to suffer in inhumane conditions.

The local culture is also exposed, including the corruption and misery of the local authorities. He examines different approaches, starting with prisons in Germany that offer intensive treatment, a prison in Cyprus where there is compassion for the prisoners and Paraguay where stabbings and murders are almost a daily occurrence. There is no doubt that this is a very brave act by Rowe, he is exposed to danger almost every time he chooses to become a full-fledged prisoner.

It is a fascinating anthropological journey, which illuminates areas of the world that we would never have been exposed to without the series. The season and the neglect we are exposed to, is enormous and the sights are not simple for western eyes. Those looking for a documentary series, which has a lot of empathy and respect for the subject it covers, will find a proper answer in the toughest prisons in the world. It manages to be interesting, without provoking unnecessary provocations, although it will not create the change that those prisoners so badly need, it manages to open the eyes of a great many privileged viewers around the world.


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