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Raphael Rowe talks about being ‘Notorious’

Netflix's Raphael Rowe talks about life in jail, season five of his hit show "Inside The World's Toughest Prisons" and new autobiography "Notorious".

Season five of Raphael Rowe’s trending show Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons will be released on Netflix very soon…

I guess you may have seen, heard, or read that I spent 12 years in prison for crimes I did not commit? Well, it’s true. The only reason I am here now and able to share my story with you is because I never stopped fighting to prove my innocence. Eventually, I won and my convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2000. I was free…but changed forever. I knew, first hand, what injustice felt like, looked like and what prison can do to a human being. I am scarred by my life experience but I have not allowed it to hold me back.

I learned about criminal behaviour, crime and the law from the confines of a maximum security prison cell. I transferred the determined questioning and methodological research skills I acquired in prison to become a respected and unwavering reporter that specialised in social and criminal justice. This is why I go into some of the toughest prisons in the world; people need to see what justice, injustice and reform look like around the world. 

My reporting and investigative journalism about prison, crime and criminal behaviour has significantly changed people’s perceptions and I am very proud of that achievement. I left school at 16, and so my academic achievements have been limited but I do not see that as a failure. It is part of who I am and is testimony to overcoming the financial and social challenges I endured growing up in a deprived area scarred by racial discriminations and inequality. After all, I went from there to prime time television and a career in investigative journalism that has taken me around the world!

Now I’ve written about my life in Notorious. It has been a difficult journey for me as I revisited my prison diaries. I initially toyed with the idea of writing an autobiography many years ago, and over the past 18 months have put pen to paper with my publisher and am extremely proud of the finished result. It’s a storytelling of my time during wrongful imprisonment through to the present day. It’s very personal.

Here’s one of the extracts from the book: “Imprisonment could not deny me my formative years. I grew, defiant of my circumstances, like a stem of green that stretched to the sun through cracked slabs of concrete. Prison reshaped my life and my perspective. I learned what torture was. I never knew if I would ever be released. Spending my life locked in an eight-by-ten cell would have broken me at some point. My body was subject to abuse. The amount of time I spent in segregation, stripped naked and beaten by prison officers could have crushed my spirit and soul. But I couldn’t dare allow it to. There is a shift that happens when you enter your cell for the first time and the door shuts. People react very differently; every prisoner develops their coping mechanism. The guilty tend to be more accepting.”

I have also been informed by the team at Netflix that Season five of our trending show Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons is being released very soon! This is a huge milestone for me and I have been overwhelmed by the popularity of this very personal TV presenting project of mine. I hope season five is as well received as all the other seasons have been, because it gives me such pride to know that what I am doing is having a positive impact on so many.

Something else that I’m very proud of, on December 10, the Trinity Law Society Ireland, in collaboration with Access to Law, will present me with the Society’s prestigious Praeses Elit Award.

  • Notorious can be purchased via Raphael’s website: – signed copies can also be ordered.

Photo by Amit and Naroop

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