Girls Incarcerated

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Girls Incarcerated TV Poster Image
Gritty, insightful prison docu has strong language, themes.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It looks at life behind bars, but addresses issues like family, self-awareness, self-empowerment, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The guards and staff exhibit tough love, but appear to care enough to try to make a positive difference in their lives. Many students struggle as a result of difficult home situations, while others simply continue to make bad choices.


Students often yell, scream, and argue with each other and with guards. Some of the inmates are incarcerated for assault, armed robbery, or threats to commit serious bodily harm. Things are thrown and broken. Child abuse and molestation, accidental deaths, and other violent events are also briefly discussed. 


Conversations about relationships, including single-sex relationships are had, and occasionally argued about. No intimate touching is allowed among the students, but it happens.  


Lots of cursing, including "f--k," "s--t." Young women often gear this towards adults. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some students are incarcerated while suffering from addiction; one continues to struggle after her mother forced her to do heroine. Out of detention, they often get in trouble for drinking, smoking marijuana, doing heroin, etc. (but these activities aren't shown). Cigarette smoking is also visible. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Girls Incarcerated is a documentary series that follows the lives of teenagers serving time in an Indiana maximum level juvenile detention center. There are lots of discussions of disturbing and violent events, ranging from child abuse and forced drug use to using deadly weapons and armed robbery. Yelling and arguing are frequent, and the language is full of cursing, too. But it also highlights the importance of young women to take responsibility for their actions, and the need to help them get educated and prepared to function in society regardless of what they’ve been through. 

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Kid, 12 years old May 21, 2020

Girls Incarcerated Review

Girls Incarcerated shares quite an important message on what not to do in life. It’s very sad and makes you realise how much you need family in your life. Good... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 7, 2019

Not much worse that middle school

I think that middle school is just as worse bad words wise.

What's the story?

GIRLS INCARCERATED: YOUNG AND LOCKED UP is a documentary series that follows troubled young women serving time in the Indiana correctional system. Cameras follow the day-to-day lives of a group of young women who have been sent to the Madison Juvenile Detention Facility, a maximum level detention center, for offenses ranging from running away from home and addiction problems, to assault and armed robbery. Referred to as "students" while behind bars, the teens go to school, have recreation time, earn privileges, and try to learn ways to cope with anger, peer pressure, and other real-life challenges as they continue to grow into adulthood. 

Is it any good?

This intense series tells the gritty stories of young women who find themselves serving time in a setting that is designed to both punish them for their wrong-doings, but still give them the skills and support necessary to be able to live better lives once released. While some of the students are able to function in a dorm-like setting and earn privileges while building these skills, others seem to be caught in a revolving door that keeps them from moving forward thanks to being unable to break free from old habits and behaviors. Many who are released inevitably find themselves back in the system thanks to being unable to follow probation rules, interacting with toxic family and friends, and an inability to build their own self-esteem.

Watching these students’ ups and downs may prove interesting or entertaining, but many of their life stories, which include growing up with drug-addicted parents, enduring physical and sexual trauma, living in extreme poverty, and in some cases, being abandoned by family members altogether, are tragic. These narratives also underscore some of the larger societal issues that are contributing to their delinquency. But despite the compassion the Madison staff have for the students, their difficulties aren’t framed as excuses for anti-social or criminal behavior. it’s a complex reality, and one that Girls Incarcerated manages to capture from the point of view of those who live it every day.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the reasons many of the students at Madison behave the way they do towards their peers, their teachers, and security staff. Does the way they act reflect how they feel inside? How do you manage your feelings in difficult situations?

  • What kinds of messages does Girls Incarcerated send about young women who end up serving time in juvenile correctional facilities? 

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