Take an unvarnished look at life behind bars.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series' shock value could be a strong deterrent against a life of crime. Inmates often share details of the murders and rapes they committed, and guards demonstrate how prison issue products like razors, toothbrushes, and bed sheets can be fashioned into weapons.


Fistfights among inmates, rebellions against guards, and prison takeover attempts can get very violent. Guards use pepper spray and steel batons to subdue criminals, and inmates kick, bite, punch, and grab at anything for weapons. Victims and their surroundings are left bloody. Subject matter often includes details of the crimes that inmates committed outside prison.


Sexual crimes are mentioned when outlining inmates' pasts. Instances of prison rape are also discussed.


"S--t" and "f--k" are bleeped.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Inmates and guards occasionally discuss drug dealing within prisons.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary series about life behind prison walls features quite a bit of violence, both among inmates and aimed at correctional officers. Most of the scuffles are captured on distant security cameras, so blood is usually restricted to aftermath scenes (on clothes, walls, etc.). Guards use steel batons and pepper spray to subdue unruly convicts. Inmates describe their crimes -- including murder, rape, and sexual assault -- in tones that show little remorse and at times imply boastfulness. Some men and women are shown in full restraints, including masks that prevent them from spitting on guards. This tense show definitely isn't for younger kids, but it's informative, and its shock value could act as strong incentive for teens to toe the line.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Each episode of documentary series LOCKDOWN spotlights a different prison housing hundreds of criminals who are doing time for violent acts like rape, sexual assault, and murder. Viewers get an overview of the facility's layout, security procedures, and disciplinary processes. Cameras follow correctional officers as they perform impromptu cell searches and monitor inmates' movements; when fights break out between residents or among criminals and guards, it's all caught on tape. In one-on-one interviews, the guards often describe the threats they face from predatory inmates whose lengthy sentences mean they have little to lose by causing trouble. The prisoners also get camera time -- their revelations about their criminal history and the harsh reality of their adversarial relationship with the guards (\"We stick together -- it's us against them,\" as one inmate put it) are at times shocking and disturbing.

Is it any good?


Sheer curiosity will be a big draw for this well-made series, but Lockdown definitely isn't for younger viewers. Details of criminal histories, shots of violent prison fights, inmates' boisterous defiance of authority, and scenes of prisoners in full restraints -- including shackles, chains, padded helmets to prevent head-butting, and masks to fend off spitting -- are too much for anyone who can't understand the extreme behavior that landed these people behind bars in the first place.

But as shocking as the content is, it could serve as a harsh eye opener for any teens flirting with potentially poor lifestyle decisions. Viewers will also come away with a new appreciation for corrections officers, who put their lives on the line every day.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about crime and the legal system. How do people become criminals? Which factors contribute to how this happens? Is there an attraction to crime? Can criminals change their ways? How does society both help and hinder this? How does our legal system work? Does it seem biased toward or against any particular group(s)? Do you think innocent people end up in jail? What can be done about that?

TV details

Network:National Geographic Channel
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Lockdown was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byNirvash April 9, 2008
This is not suitable for all people but it does give a good look at prisons.
Parent Written byPlague December 17, 2009


Awesome show. Watch it all the time with my kid to show him life behind bars is harder than most people think. I know from past experiences that prison is the last thing anybody should ever want in their life. A life in prison is worse than death itself.
Teen, 13 years old Written bynnowgoo April 9, 2008


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