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TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Jailbirds TV Poster Image
Intriguing docu about female inmates can feel exploitative.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Light messages about staying positive through difficult situations, but they are buried and inconsistent. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The show doesn't shy away from showing the complexities of its characters -- even if they're charismatic or remorseful, many of the subjects are still involved with crime and making questionable decisions.


There are many violent offenders on Jailbirds, but the onscreen violence is limited. There are descriptions of violence and some implied violence for dramatic effect.


Sexual situations are offscreen, but there are very explicit descriptions of sex and sex acts in every episode.


Profanity is constant: "f--k," "s--t," the c-word, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug use is offscreen, but drugs are sold and described. Alcohol is made from products available to the inmates and then consumed. Prisoners are sometimes seen smoking cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jailbirds is a documentary-style reality show about a group of female prisoners in the Sacramento County Jail. The show mostly keeps depictions of violence, sex, and drug use off-screen, but they are all talked about explicitly throughout the show, and inmates often threaten one another with violence. Profanity is constant throughout, and there is sexually explicit talk as well. The show blurs the line between reality TV and documentary, most notably in the way it turns violent offenders into protagonists. For example, one plotline depicts a romance between a female inmate and a male prisoner who is doing time for "causing corporal harm" to his wife. His history of abuse is played for dramatic effect and not taken as seriously as it could be.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJuli N. May 19, 2019

Brutal expletive-rich reality of life in a jail cell - too real and exploitive of participants...

I can't imagine a scenario in which sharing this with children makes sense.
Teen, 15 years old Written bykjj345 May 19, 2019

Very good show

i enjoyed this show and i think it’s good for mature teenagers 15+. they do cuss a lot but there is no sexual scenes other than a couple who kissed. they do get... Continue reading

What's the story?

This series shows the day-to-day life of a group of female inmates at the Sacramento County Jail. It focuses on prison rules and procedures, as well as how people cope with being in jail. Viewers get to know several of the inmates: what they did to get put in jail, they friendships they've made, and what their lives were like on the outside.

Is it any good?

It's interesting that it's taken so long for Netflix to develop a show that depicts a sort of real-life version of Orange is the New Black. Jailbirds is entertaining enough, and many of the inmates' coping mechanisms -- their unique system of communicating through toilet pipes, aka "toilet talk," will likely be a popular part of the show. Hoever, like many reality shows, it's difficult to tell what is real and what the directors are manipulating for dramatic purposes. Other prison shows have a clear point-of-view and purpose: OITNB, for example, is about how the prison industrial complex can degrade and abuse prisoners. Without that clarity of purpose, Jailbirds is entertaining, no doubt, but can sometimes feel exploitative. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the inmates profiled on this show. What characters do you find yourself rooting for and why? How do you reconcile the crimes they have committed with how they present themselves on the show?

  • Are all criminals bad people? Who on the show seems like a good person that may have done bad things? Who comes off like a good person on the show that might not as be as good as they seem? How can you tell which is which?

  • How are the inmates treated by the guards? How does being in prison seem to affect each inmate's behavior?

TV details

  • Premiere date: May 10, 2019
  • Network: Netflix
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-MA
  • Available on: Streaming

For kids who love reality TV

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