Netflix is going inside the world’s toughest prisons with its latest factual original. The SVOD service has ordered a four-part documentary, hosted by ex-prisoner and journalist Raphael Rowe, from British production company Emporium Productions.
Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons has secured unique access behind the bars of some of the toughest prisons on Earth including a number ruled by convicted murderers in gang-run jails and others with maximum security compounds. It will feature Rowe, who was imprisoned for 12 years for a murder he didn’t commit, travel to jails in Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Ukraine and Belize. He will talk to inmates, including serial killers, drug gang lords, a witch killer and authoritarian prison governors.
The four-part series, which will launch next month, was commissioned by Netflix’s unscripted originals exec Olivia LaRoche. It is exec produced by Emporium boss Emma Read and Gabe Solomon as well as LaRoche.
Emporium was set up in 2015 by Read, who was previously Head of Factual Programmes for Drug Lords indie ITN Productions, with backing from Episodes producer Hat Trick Productions. It produces series including Sky’s Inside the Freemasons and History’s WW2 Treasure Hunters.
Deadline understands that Emporium is also working with Netflix on a second commission.
Read said, “We have had an exciting adventure making the series with Netflix which played to Emporium’s strength in access driven documentaries as we worked with governments around the world persuading them to open the gates of their maximum security prisons to viewers. The series reveals the unique attitudes to prisoners in different countries and cultures and the varied ways we balance human rights and public security.”
Rowe added, “Going back inside to film this series was one of the most challenging decisions I’ve made. Taking on the persona of a prisoner in order to immerse myself in the daily life and routine of convicted criminals and the conditions they are held in around the world was dangerous. The conditions in these prisons are so tough for very different reasons and the prisoners we spoke to offer an insight that is both captivating and chilling. This series blows away any preconceived ideas that prisons can be soft and why rehabilitation should be a priority for the international community.”