5 Best Women In Prison Documentaries

These 5 best women in prison documentaries are pulled from a surprisingly short list of candidates. Unlike "Chained Heat" and other exploitative classics of fiction cinema, the non-fiction depictions of women in prison tend to be far more obscure. These films all make for compelling stories and the best women in prison documentaries offer a human perspective on the unique issues that face incarcerated women.

  1. "Prison Lullabies" (2005) This film offers a glimpse into the lives of pregnant women giving birth and attempting to raise their children within a prison environment. Pregnant women are found incarcerated the world over and this documentary may be counted among the best women in prison documentaries for the perspective it offers on an relatively unknown, yet common, social issue. 
  2. "Through The Wire" (1990) A recounting of three women incarcerated in the female high security unit of a Lexington, Kentucky prison in the late 1980s. This documentary explores the women's claims of mistreatment and government brainwashing because of their radical political views.
  3. "O Cárcere e a Rua" (2005) The English title of this Brazilian film is "The Prison and the Street." It documents the prison life of Claudia, one of the most respected inmates at Madre Pelletier Penitentiary. She protects Daniela who's at risk due to accusations of having killed her own child. The film follows Claudia as she departs prison and adapts to the world outside. Considered one of the best women in prison documentaries available in Portuguese with English subtitles.
  4. "Girls Behind Bars" (2008) Life inside Scotland's only female prison is presented in a documentary television series. Filmed over a year, the episodes provide a series of intimate and often shocking portraits of prison life for these women. The three episodes of this series are among the best women in prison documentaries filmed in the United Kingdom.
  5. "Holloway" (2009) This three-part documentary television series for England's ITV1 lays bare the largest women's prison in Europe. Holloway houses petty criminals, prostitutes and murderers and we are even offered a candid exploration of the lives of young heroin addicts who find the prison to be an effective rapid detox unit. Considered another of the best women in prison documentaries that the UK has offered in recent years.
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