Prison of Secrets (1997) starring Stephanie Zimbalist, Dan Lauria, Gary Frank, Finola Hughes, Rusty Schwimmer, Kimberly Russell, Dale Dickey directed by Fred Gerber Movie Review

Prison of Secrets (1997)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Stephanie Zimbalist in Prison of Secrets (1997)

Abusing Their Power

Lynn Schaffer (Stephanie Zimbalist - Incident in a Small Town) thought she was doing some good by saving her boss money by setting up her own business as a middle man but her naivety cost her dearly as she ends up arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for racketeering. If being separated from her husband and daughter wasn't bad enough what she discovers inside makes things worse than ever as she quickly learns that head guard Sergeant Crang (Dan Lauria - Terror in the Family) is using his position to abuse the women and he is not a man to be crossed. Whilst her husband Larry (Gary Frank) is aware of what is going on, having witnessed Crang fondling his wife during a search tells her to stay out of it as she could be out soon but having made friends inside Lynn knows she has to somehow stop Crang and the other male guards from abusing their power.

"Prison of Secrets" is a movie which is inspired by a true story, the inspired part is important because it gives it some freedom to be more sensational, more shocking and dramatic rather than going for authenticity. That doesn't take anything away from the sick nature of the true story on which it is based and does a good job of highlighting how corrupt the prison system once was and maybe still is.

Dan Lauria and Stephanie Zimbalist in Prison of Secrets (1997)

So what does that all mean, well to be honest "Prison of Secrets" ends up a very simple movie about Lynn who on discovering that Sergeant Crang and his male guards are abusing their power by abusing the female inmates feels she has to do something. As such we watch as the other prisoners initially don't want to rock the boat as whilst they are all at risk of being sexually abused knowing that Crang could make things a lot harder for them. And of course alongside this we have Crang becoming aware that Lynn is trying to bring an end to his tyranny and making life as hard as possible for her especially when people start to sit up and listen to her.

Now because this is inspired by rather than a dramatization of true events the way that "Prison of Secrets" comes across is like one of those prison movies where we have a nasty guard making life hard for one good prisoner but in this case rather than escape she tries to stop him. It almost feels wrong to say this but by inspired by it can go for entertainment through shock and drama as we wait to see what Crang will do next, which prisoner he will haul out of bed at night to abuse or what he will do to Lynn to silence her. And it works as when you see Crang take over the body searches as the women line up after seeing off their family from a visit you know he is going to end up groping Lynn. As I said before it doesn't take anything away from the true story on which it is inspired by but definitely turns it into entertainment rather than a realistic dramatization.

Now for the most the casting is good Stephanie Zimbalist comes across as a woman of conviction as Lynn, unable to let things go on and do nothing. And the various actresses such as Kimberly Russell and Rusty Schwimmer who play Lynn's fellow inmates are just as good, cliche but interesting. The one dubious casting choice is Dan Lauria as Sergeant Crang because whilst Lauria does a good job of playing nasty it is hard to fully believe as Lauria is more often seen playing good guys.

What this all boils down to is that "Prison of Secrets" is a decent little prison drama, inspired by a true story but written with entertainment in mind rather than realism.