5 Best Maximum Security Prison Documentaries

These 5 best maximum security prison documentaries showcase some of the highest security penal institutions in America. For anyone with an interest in the apparatus of incarceration, any one of these maximum security prison documentaries makes for compelling and informative viewing.

  1. "The Farm: Angola, USA" (1998) This film depicts daily life in the Louisiana State Penitentiary better known as Angola Prison. Shot primarily from an inmate's perspective, the documentary includes interviews with several inmates, include one nearing death. This documentary film was nominated for an Oscar and it is considered a classic. It should be on any list of the five best maximum security prison documentaries.
  2. "Lock-Up: The Prisoners of Rikers Island" (1994) Rikers Island is relatively unknown in New York State, located in the East River between Queens and the Bronx. It is one of the largest correctional facilities in North America. This film includes interviews with various inmates and people working in law enforcement on the island. Anyone who witnesses the gripping aftermath of prison violence and the internal drug searches recorded in this film must acknowledge it is one of the best maximum security prison documentaries ever set to film.
  3. "Lockdown" (2007-2010) This television documentary series is also known as "America's Hardest Prisons" produced by The National Geographic Channel. For over four seasons this series has explored various facets of maximum security incarceration. Any number of these episodes alone could qualify as among the best maximum security prison documentaries, but as a whole, the series is a comprehensive exploration into the modern prison state.
  4. "An Omar Broadway Film" (2008) Incarcerated gang member Omar Broadway covertly recorded his experiences at a maximum security prison in New Jersey. Broadway documented what he perceived to be excessive uses of force and corruption among the prison's guards. Perhaps not the best of the best maximum security prison documentaries, this film is unique for the access to prison life and prisoner perspective that it offers.
  5. "Through the Wire" (1990) This documentary film examines the stories of three women who were convicted of federal crimes and incarcerated in a special high-security complex in Lexington, Kentucky during the late 1980s. The women claim they were mistreated and became victims of a government brainwashing experiment because of their radical political views. It offers a rather different perspective on maximum security and the State.
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