The glass cage: Inside America’s new jails

In the United Stated there are more than 2 million people in prison, making America the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Under the ‘three strikes’ law, reoffenders can face severe sentences of up to 150 years for minor crimes so the prison population is always increasing.

Overcrowding and violence can turn prisons into a dangerous environment for both guards and detainees. The American authorities have come up with a new solution to the problem; specially built high-tech prisons. The objective is enabling maximum surveillance with minimum personnel. The glass walls of the cells mean prisoners can never hide from view, add to that 24 hour video surveillance and lights that never go out and the prisoners have zero privacy. There is also minimal face to face contact with the guards. Even family visits in these new prisons are conducted via video chat. But does this new system really work? We go inside the prison, meet the guards and prisoners and observe this completely new style of incarceration.

Of those 2 million American prisoners, around 3,000 people are currently on death row awaiting their fate. We also meet one such prisoner who claims he is innocent and the French woman fighting for his release.

A fascinating look inside the American prison system.


  • Year: 2012
  • Duration: 63 mins
  • Production: Ligne de Front
  • Director: Rebecca Levin
  • Available Versions: FRA
  • Country of production: France

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