The host of gritty Netflix series Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons has admitted that he suffered ‘psychological damage’ after being locked up with ‘barbaric’ rapists and killers – including one man who murdered his own son for stealing a watermelon.
Journalist Raphael Rowe, 55, confessed that he struggled to cope during a seven-day stint behind bars in the Solomon Islands for the new series, which launches on the streaming site on Friday, and also sees him serving a week in prisons in the Czech Republic, Finland, and Bali.
In an interview with DailyMail.com, Rowe opened up about the most ‘challenging moments’ he experienced both on and off screen, while discussing the ‘inhumane’ crimes some inmates had committed.
In the Solomon Islands, which has some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, Rowe was incarcerated with Mostyn, a man who murdered his 10-year-old son by whipping him with a stick while trying to discipline him for stealing a watermelon from their neighbor. He has served 14 years in jail so far.
Raphael Rowe returns to jail for the seventh season of Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons
The journalist was locked up in the Solomon Islands with killer Mostyn, who murdered his 10-year-old son
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com, ahead of the show’s return, Rowe said: ‘It was infested, it was horrible. The nature of the offenses that most of the men were in for were horrible to hear.
‘There were lots of challenging moments off camera and some on camera where I was hearing crimes that were so barbaric and inhumane that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, you know, the man killed his 10-year-old son over a watermelon.
‘There were other guys who committed acts of rape on children that they believed was justified, and I heard some barbaric stuff.
‘And then I’ve got to remind myself, that their culture, their way of living in the environment that they come from, it’s very different from the world that we come from.’
In the documentary, Mostyn says his violent murder was ‘hard to describe’ but that he does feel regret for his actions.
Reflecting on their conversation, Rowe remarks: ‘Mostyn does seem to have changed profoundly, and it does look like it is his faith, not any prison rehabilitation program, that has helped him get here.’
Mostyn, who killed his child for stealing a watermelon, has ‘changed profoundly’ through faith inside the jail
Rowe was placed behind bars with violent sex offenders, which included his cell mate (l)
Rowe explained his difficulty in trying to find a level of understanding between himself and the prisoners in order to be able to shoot the documentary.
‘I felt psychologically threatened and damaged by what I was hearing and witnessing and, and the experience of the dark, dingy, disgusting environment,’ he said.
‘When I interviewed one man in the Solomon Islands, and he was describing to me the nature of his offenses – and this is not a man with any mental health issues as far as I was concerned – I challenged him in a way that I haven’t chatted to a prisoner in a very long time because I found his crimes so abhorrent and disgusting.’
Once released from jail, Rowe, who was falsely imprisoned for 12 years for a murder he did not commit, likes to have a shower to cleanse him of the horrors of being inside.
‘It’s a very simple mechanism for me where, when I have a shower, the drops of water that wash my body, wash away the stories of thoughts, the feelings, the smell of everything,’ he said.
The presenter described the jail – with the toilet pictured – as ‘infested’ and ‘horrible’
Rowe struggled to come to terms with some of the prisoners’ ‘abhorrent’ crimes
He added that the documentary was traumatizing to shoot – but is keen to return for more series in the future
‘So I kind of psychologically tell myself that the water hitting my body is now washing away the story from that guy or the rat that I saw running here, or whatever it is.’
Although filming Inside World’s Toughest Prisons does take a mental toll, Rowe is passionate about returning for an eighth and ninth season.
‘I think I will continue to do it for as long as we can, so long as we can reflect these prisons in an authentic way.
‘There are prisons all over the world, so there’s plenty of choice. So it’s really down to Netflix. Does Netflix want me to do a season eight and a nine? I know the audience does, there’s no question.
‘I’ll continue doing it I think for sure for sure. And if not for Netflix, then someone else.’
Raphael Rowe presents Netflix’s Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons. Season seven is available on September 15