Filming the obscurity

Article written by
Emma Thorpe
March 29, 2023

In a recent article for Prison Insider, Raphael Rowe explains how his Netflix documentary series 'Inside the World's Toughest Prisons' captures the living conditions of prisoners around the world.

Prison Insider asked him three questions.

PI. What was the general public’s reaction to the programme and how did it change their perception of prisons?

RR. When I filmed an episode in Tacumbú, located in Paraguay and notoriously one of the most dangerous prisons in the world, I witnessed first-hand the drug abuse, gang culture and violence taking place in that environment. I was really surprised that the authorities gave us access, but it was because they wanted to show the challenges they face as a country trying to contain the drug cartels. Hundreds of prisoners would sleep on the floor in tinglados, open-air corrugated shelter, because the prison didn’t have the resources to provide better conditions. The directorate said on camera that he has to let a ‘drug boss’ within the prison sell drugs because of the violence that would erupt if prisoners didn’t get their drugs. The episode caused such a stir in Paraguay that they have decided to build new prisons.

"I’m trying to reach people that are so far removed from the criminal justice system, so far removed from prison, so far removed from the experiences of people who end up in prison, that they have no sense of how important this issue is and how relevant it is to society."

To read the full interview, click here.

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