Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
4 user

Jessica Behind Bars 

Jessica visits a women's prison and is held captive when an uprising occurs because of abuse and murder at the facility.


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 2 more credits »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Margaret Avery ... Dixie
Adrienne Barbeau ... Kathryn
Barbara Baxley ... Deputy Warden Amanda Debs
Yvonne De Carlo ... Miss Springer (as Yvonne DeCarlo)
Linda Kelsey ... Mary Stamm
Janet MacLachlan ... Dr. Irene Matthews
Vera Miles ... Warden Elizabeth Gates
Susan Oliver ... Louise
Eve Plumb ... Tug
Mary Woronov ... Brady
Susan Peretz ... Bertha
Donna Ponterotto ... Jamie
Diana Bellamy ... Head Guard
Gay Hagen Gay Hagen ... First Guard


During Jessica class on creative writing in a woman's prison, the doctor is found dead, killed by a morphine injection. Convict Mary Stamm's fingerprints were found on the vial of drugs used. Next, there is a revolt, which takes Jessica hostage but is ill-prepared. Even the demands are a matter for debate. Jessica is now asked to investigate and, while she digs into malpractices apparently involving warden Gates, who has political ambition, and conflicts involving staff as well as prisoners, another staff member is killed. Jessica discovers things are not as they appear. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1 December 1985 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Only contained an all-female cast. The only men are police officers seen at the very end. See more »


Jessica had stated the cook was selling the kitchen supplies because the truck had arrived empty and Jessica had seen the prisoners unloaded it to use the kitchen stuff as a barricade. At the end, the guards are seen reloading the truck instead of returning the items to the kitchen dock behind them as the warden and Jessica walk by. See more »


[first lines]
Gate Guard: You want to open it up for me?
Mims: Yeah, sure... There you go.
See more »

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User Reviews

Prison antics with 'Murder She Wrote'
21 July 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Have always been quite fond of 'Murder She Wrote'. It is a fun and relaxing watch that makes you think as you try to unwind in the evening. If one wants more complex, twisty mysteries with lots of tension and suspense 'Murder She Wrote' may not be for you, but if you want something light-hearted and entertaining but still provide good mysteries 'Murder She Wrote' fits the bill just fine.

Personally liked "Jessica Behind Bars" much more than the previous reviewers. In fact, it's always been a standout episode of Season 2 from personal opinion, and as far as 'Murder She Wrote' in general too it's up there. Didn't really buy how everything was resolved so patly at the end, and Jessica seemed almost too calm and collected in moments of great tension.

Otherwise, "Jessica Behind Bars" is a great episode, and a fairly unique one too. Having an all female cast was a first in 'Murder She Wrote' and even after the show ended in 1996 it's still a unique distinction.

Even in a confined setting, a prison this time, "Jessica Behind Bars" is well shot and suits the tension of the episode well. It is kind of a hoot as well seeing all those 80s hairdos. The music has energy and has presence but also not making the mistake of over-scoring, while it is hard to forget or resist the theme tune.

"Jessica Behind Bars" is very thoughtfully scripted too when it could easily have been trashy, instead it touches upon heavy themes like power, corruption, fight for survival and the nature of crime, debating it in an intelligent way. The story is compelling with a final solution that is quite shocking (for both deaths) and a quite suspenseful climax (so much so it was a shame that the episode ended on a pat note).

Angela Lansbury is terrific, while there are insane performances (in the best of ways) from Margaret Avery and Adrienne Barbeau and classy support from Vera Miles and Linda Kelsey. Even Yvonne De Carlo appears as a cook. As well as its unique distinction as a 'Murder She Wrote' episode with a all-female cast, "Jessica Behind Bars" is worth seeing for the cast alone.

In conclusion, great fun and quite thrilling. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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