Doing Time on Netflix


As of this writing there are currently 2.2 million people serving jail, and or federal prison time in the United States of America. To a large degree, this is a direct result of the mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws that were enacted in the late eighties and early nineties.

These laws saw an unprecedented increase in not only the construction of new prisons, but has also created a social situation where almost everybody now knows someone who either has been to jail or are currently incarcerated.

Perhaps this explains the internet fascination with Netflix programs like Orange is the New Black or the more recent Making a Murderer. This production details the life of Steven Avery and his attempt to exonerate himself. Everybody loves an underdog, particularly one who is wrongly accused by the criminal justice system.

The reason this resonates so strongly with Netflix viewers is because over the last decade the system has lost close to all credibility. Between police brutality videos and tales of torture and coerced confessions, the practice of law and order has gradually been exposed as an over burdened and corrupt quagmire that is in desperate need of a nation wide overhaul.

The key thing here is that mass incarceration has become a buzzword that is now on the lips of millions who have never seen the backseat of a squad car. Certainly this is a far cry from the days of endless police reality shows. It is this reporters opinion that the worm of public opinion has turned, and in the end our society must change with it.

Here are three of the top prison documentaries and series on Netflix right now:

1. Making A Murderer

Mentioned earlier, Making a Murderer, is a 2015 documentary series on Netflix that seems to be on everyone’s lips. This is not the first time the internet streaming outlet is highlighting corruption and unreliability in the criminal justice system.

Documentaries and other crime series have recently gained traction in entertainment media. The story of Steven Avery is set in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and exposes the unbelievable actions of the city’s police department to put an innocent man in prison for murder.

Avery thinks he was framed for murder because he sued the sheriff’s department for his previous wrongful conviction that put him in prison for 18 years. People are intrigued by the thrilling mystery of Avery’s case because what happened to him could happen to anyone.

2. Dear Zachary

Another heart-reaching documentary that Netflix has streamed, Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, produced in 2008 by Kurt Kuenne, highlights obvious issues in the justice system. After a woman murders her boyfriend, she is able to walk free on bail while pregnant with the deceased man’s child, only later to murder the child and herself.

Throughout the documentary there are many valid points made that prove due to carelessness in the system, these crimes could’ve been prevented. After the release of this film, the deceased man’s parents pushed for Bill C-464 (which became a law in 2010) to cause judges to look a little more carefully at the children involved or affected by a bail hearing.

3. The Central Park Five

The Central Park Five is a documentary on Netflix highlighting the corruptions pertaining to the justice and prison system in the United States. This documentary is about a group of teenagers that got wrongly accused of raping a young woman and sentenced to a thirteen years in prison.

After serving almost seven years as an innocent cellmate, the real serial rapist confessed to the crime they were put into jail for. for. Netflix has brought to attention and created a lot of buzz about social justice issues, specially in the prison system.

The question comes up is, are people really concerned about the corruption in the prisons or just hooked on another juicy Netflix show? That is the question still up for debate. Either way, the corruption happening within out justice system is worth talking about.


About Author

Hannah Cooper

A Santa Barbara and Central Coast veteran for over fifteen years. I graduated from Santa Barbara City College with an Associates Degree in Communication Studies, and now in my final quarter at Antioch University specializing in Multi Media and Marketing. Aside from school, you can catch me exploring hidden beaches, reading, attending music shows, or chatting about the latest sports news. Did I mention, I am a Kobe Bryant fanatic? My past experiences and academics has sparked a passion for writing and the desire to learn in all aspects of life. Dream job is to be a sports content contributor for ESPN, so I can debate with the boys.

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