#117 Twelve Years Innocent with Raphael Rowe

08 Sep 2021

On today’s podcast we’re taking a step away from the usual conversation and you’re going to hear a story. A story about a young man called Raphael Rowe and his career that was born as a result of spending 12 years in a British prison for crimes he did not commit.

This story will be triggering for a lot of people. Despite a history of criminality, theft and violence, Raphael found himself a victim of institutional racism that led to his wrongful sentencing and incarceration.

This story has somewhat of a positive outcome, however, it pains me to think of how many people are in the same situation as him. With no means of escape.

You may recognise Raphael Rowe from his many TV programmes that he has filmed since his release including the highly popular Netflix series “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons”. Raphael visits high security prisons around the world, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Brazil, Ukraine to name a few. Inside he films with some of the world’s most dangerous prisoners, guards, prisoners’ families and politicians and talks to them about crime and punishment. 

Today I try and dive into the topic of why people commit crimes, the inequalities that may drive criminality, racism at the highest level and to shed light on how far we need to  go to tackle injustice. My overarching feeling after reading Raphael’s book “Notorious” and listening to his own podcast “Second Chance” is one of sincere gratitude for the freedoms we take for granted  everyday.  I hope you feel the same after reading his  tragic story, pandemic or no pandemic.

Raphael is an Advocate for Equality , Justice , Social Reform and Prison Reform. I hope  you enjoy his story.


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I really hope you found this conversation with Raphael as interesting as I did - such an amazing guest and definitely do check out Raphaels book and website where you can see everything else that Raphael is working on.

GUEST: Raphael Rowe

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.  I have visited many high security prisons around the world, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Britain, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Brazil, Ukraine, Belize, Romania, Costa Rica and South Africa to name a few. Inside I film with some of the worlds most dangerous prisoners, the guards, prisoners families and politicians and talk to them about crime and punishment. Is it dangerous? Yes, it is, but I believe it is crucial to show an insight into how prisons around the World work. Only with greater knowledge and understanding can real reform take place.  My reporting and investigative journalism about prison, crime and criminal behaviour has significantly changed peoples 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 descrimination and inequality. Afterall, I went from there to prime time television and a career in investigative journalism that has taken me around the World! I am successful in my chosen career because I am a curious individual,  a skilled researcher, an experienced interviewer and a tenacious investigator of facts. I have overcome many challenges and learned to channel my adversities into action and energy and believe this trait is within all of us. Finding yourself can be the ultimate challenge.  This is why I volunteer my time to social justice projects I care about. Encouraging and motivating people to overcome their own adversities and achieve their own dreams is important to me, regardless of whether they come from a deprived background with limited qualifications, or  are successful postgraduates, or just an ordinary person seeking inspiration.  The response of the viewers to my investigations around the World inspires me to continue with my work. People are curious to understand more about why people commit crimes, and the different responses and reactions of societies towards criminal behaviour. This curiosity is something I have in common with the viewers and it led me to study a degree in Criminology late in life. It is important to change the narrative surrounding crime, criminals and the criminal justice system. A more transparent discussion about what works, and what does not, is needed in order to reduce both the causes of crime and understand the effect criminality can have upon both the victims of crime and society as a whole.  I am Raphael Rowe and my career was born as a result of spending 12 years in prison for crimes I did not commit.

with Raphael Rowe

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