TV review by
Will Wade, Common Sense Media
Jail TV Poster Image
Unflinching reality series from Cops team.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The show is very focused on the power struggle between the guards and the inmates they must control. The inmates range from docile to deceptive to completely resistant, and the guards often have to use force -- or the threat of force -- to maintain control.


Many of the people featured on the show are violent in some manner. There are a few fistfights, plus plenty of inmates physically resist the guards, and some are quite literally bouncing off the walls. In some intense scenes, several guards must restrain a violent inmate. Some are also strapped into restraint devices, and it can be pretty disturbing to see even a drunk and violent inmate so dehumanized.


No sex or nudity, but some inmates wear somewhat suggestive clothing.


No audible bad language, but many words are bleeped. The inmates are often upset, and it shows.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

No scenes of people using drugs or alcohol, but many of the inmates are obviously quite drunk or high. Guards occasionally find drugs when searching incoming inmates.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this reality series offers an unflinching look at what happens when people are arrested -- and it's definitely not fun. The inmates are often drunk or high and frequently violent. They pick fights with each other, attack the guards, and, if they're alone in an isolation cell, may even bang their heads against the wall in sheer frustration. Though there's no audible bad language (just lots of bleeps), and not much actual bloodshed, there's a palpable sense of tension in every episode as the guards try to maintain control. This tense show definitely isn't for younger kids, but its shock value could act as an incentive for teens to toe the line.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byclarence August 4, 2015
Kid, 12 years old November 24, 2015

What's the story?

First came Cops, one of TV's very first reality shows, which featured police officers on duty arresting criminals and troublemakers. But what happens after the squad cars drive off with the bad boys in the backseat? JAIL, of course. This series -- from the same team behind Cops -- follows people who are confined during the period between arrest and trial and adheres to the same format. There's little narration other than guards explaining their job, and plenty of action when inmates act out. Though the vast majority of the inmates are probably just trying to quietly get by, those aren't the folks who get much screen time -- because there's no "excitement" in watching them. Instead, the show focuses on the ones who cause trouble.

Is it any good?

"We never know what to expect when the next person walks in the door," says a guard at the Orient Road Jail, in Tampa, Fla. But anyone who's ever seen Cops can predict what will happen on Jail. Some inmates will misbehave, some will pick fights, many will be drunk or high or both. And the guards will have to come down on them.

Though the level of violence on Jail is lower than on most fictional dramas, it seems much more intense because it's obviously very real. When half a dozen guards struggle to restrain an angry, drunken inmate, it looks much more dangerous than any martial arts fistfight -- even though nobody seems to get hurt -- and might upset younger viewers. Still, letting kids see what really happens to people who break the law might not be such a bad thing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the criminal justice system. Lots of shows focus on the process of tracking down criminals, the court process, or the long years in prison. This is one of the few to look solely at the brief period between arrest and trial. How does jail differ from prison? What would be the worst part of being locked up? What is this show trying to accomplish? Also, how does this show compare to Cops, one of the original reality shows, which was created by the same people?

TV details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate