A&E has been home to many thought-provoking shows over the years. Known for airing gritty drama and reality programs, the network became a favorite for those intrigued by society’s unsavory underbelly. Fans of A&E are often drawn to the network for its crime-centered programming. Shows like Beyond Scared Straight and The First 48 offered a unique insight into all aspects of criminal law.
A&E’s docu-series also obtained a large fan base that’s always searching the internet for a 60 Days In application form. The show followed a series of individuals as they went into the Clark and Fulton County Jails for, as the name suggests, 60 days. These individuals were given fabricated criminal backgrounds and were meant to be seamlessly integrated into the general prison population. However, things are never quite that simple and there are many noteworthy things that have gone on with 60 Days In behind the scenes.
The Cast Members Were Mislead About Their Roles
There are many notable reality shows that hide certain elements of the program from their cast members. This can sometimes be done to maintain elements of surprise and suspense or to ensure that the cast members aren’t dramatically altering their behavior. In the case of 60 Days In, one cast member claims that the production team lied to him about the show’s ultimate goal.
According to Radar Online, season 1’s Rob Holcomb stated that the idea of the show getting an inside look at the US prison system was simply an act. “The show was not about finding drugs, it was about ratings. I was there to entertain,” he said. Holcomb hasn’t exactly made a good impression on viewers, so whether or not his word can be taken as fact is entirely up to the fans.
Some of the Wildest Things Took Place Off Camera
There’s no doubt that 60 Days In offered a unique perspective to those outside of the prison system. Some of the things that inmates could obtain or get away with were truly surprising and kept viewers coming back each season excited for more insight. While the show certainly captured a lot of interesting activities on camera, one of the most shocking things to happen to Colonel Mark Adger took place when the cameras weren’t rolling.
Following the filming of 60 Days In season 3, as per Insider, Adger and the jail staff intercepted a letter on its way out of the Fulton County Jail. Though the letter may not attract the attention of the untrained eye, closer inspection led to a pretty shocking revelation. After sending the letter to the FBI, Adger learned that one of his inmates was putting out an assassination order against him. While nobody from the cast was involved, the incident serves as a chilling reminder of some of what those in the system go through day-to-day.
The Show’s Insight Into Prison Gang Politics
Prison gang interaction serves as one of the main points of interest in 60 Days In. Given the secretive nature of gang activity both inside and outside of jail, most viewers don’t have a great understanding of gang politics and operations.
Throughout season 3 of 60 Days In, Nate Burrell learned about the conflict between different gangs, as well as the conflicts and politics within an isolated gang. According to Insider, Burrell stated that, while rival gang conflicts were typically on full display for the rest of the prison population, internal issues were handled in a much more private manner. Burrell described the gang’s method of resolution as getting two or more conflicting members into a secluded room for a quick fight.
The Show’s Manipulative Editing
One of the biggest hurdles that documentaries face is the editing process; leave too much in, and they run the risk of boring viewers. Cut too much out, however, and editors compromise the message the show is trying to send. A big problem that 60 Days In had with its editing had to do with how the production team pieced the show together. Season 1 star Rob Holcomb stated that the show edited sequences together to make it look like he was in considerably more danger than he actually was.
Holcomb saw this as an attempt to vilify the inmates even further. The cast member claims that the inmates treated him more than fairly and that the show was just trying to add a sense of danger. Although the production team didn’t fabricate any footage, their editing apparently paints an unfair portrait of the general prison population.
It Wasn’t Always 60 Days
The title of the show doesn’t leave a whole lot to the imagination; on 60 Days In, participants spend 60 days behind bars. Well, according to fan speculation on Reddit, it seems they had trouble scheduling the release of some of the show’s cast. According to Fulton County Jail records, some of the participants were in lock up for less than a month. Season 4’s Jaclin Owen was released after 28 days.
In fact, a third of the inmates from season 4 were released before their 60 days were up. One of season 4’s most controversial participants was taken out of the Fulton County Jail just a month after her arrival. Angele Cooper was in jail for a month and two days. Interestingly enough, Cooper was removed by the show and the prison over safety concerns. Jaclin Owen and Matt Fellows, the other two participants who didn’t complete their 60 days, left the show on their own accord.
The Show’s Title Cards Weren’t Always Honest
It’s one thing to use editing to shift the tone of a scene, but, according to an article from News and Tribune, there are some claims that 60 Days In more or less lied to viewers. DiAundré Newbey, a real inmate from the show’s first season, stated that his on-screen altercation with another inmate was taken completely out of context.
The altercation was made to look like it happened almost immediately after Newbey introduced himself to Robert Holcomb. DiAundré states that the incident with the inmate had nothing to do with Robert despite how it was presented on 60 Days In. Furthermore, the show’s title card stated that Newbey was removed from D-Pod, the same one housing Holcomb. In actuality, Newbey was only removed for questioning and allowed back after a matter of about 10 minutes. After watching the series upon his release, DiAundré criticized the fraudulent title card as making something out of nothing.
The Show’s Inspiration
Regardless of the show’s execution, the idea behind 60 Days In is inherently honest. After his work on shows like Behind Bars: Rookie Year and County Jail, executive producer Gregory Henry felt he hadn’t really captured a proper prison experience. “Every time we make a series in a prison, we come away feeling like everybody that we spoke to sort of had an ulterior motive and we weren’t getting a true perspective on what it was like to do time,” he stated in an interview with Buzzfeed.
Any documentary or docu-series has to struggle with bias. Whether the production team is inherently aware of it or not, the smallest choices in the editing room or in the filming of their subject can greatly affect the tone of the show. Knowing how strong Gregory Henry felt about presenting the show in such a neutral way certainly adds to 60 Days In’s viewing experience.
The Show Had To Navigate Through A Lot of Legal Hurdles
One of the most common questions in regards to 60 Days In is whether or not what the production team is doing is legal. Between 24/7 surveillance and subjecting law-abiding citizens to prison conditions, it’s fair to question the legality of the show. The mere fact that the show made it to TV for six seasons and counting makes the answer fairly obvious, though the legal hurdles that the production team had to work around might not be what fans expect.
Each member of the Clark and Fulton County Jails, both inmate and faculty member, had to sign a standard release form. What was more challenging for the crew, however, was avoiding the filming of off-limits areas. The areas surrounding the bathroom and shower areas were completely off limits for obvious reasons. Camera crews were often forced to sacrifice a better angle or shot in favor of one that didn’t intrude upon anyone’s rights.
Alan Couldn’t Go Back to the Force
One of the most interesting participants in season 4 of 60 Days In was Alan Oliver. A police officer at the time, viewers couldn’t wait to see what Oliver thought of the other side of law enforcement. However, it seems he didn’t like what he discovered. The show was a pretty somber experience for Alan, it seems. According to Insider, following his time on the show, Oliver found the idea of going back to work in law enforcement impossible.
The unjust imprisonment and poor treatment of some inmates resonated with the former officer, who has since gone on to become a car salesman.
How Participants Were Selected
A lot of people might be wondering what would lead a person to want to participate in 60 Days In. Participants like season 3’s Michelle Polley and season 4’s Angele Cooper saw the show as an opportunity to further their knowledge in criminal justice. Others, like season 2’s Chris Graf and season 4’s Stephanie, sought to get a better understanding of what their incarcerated family members went through.
“One of the most surprising things was how many folks were willing to put aside their lives for two months to participate in a program like this,” showrunner Gregory Henry stated in a Buzzfeed interview. With such a wide variety of people willing to participate, the production team got the luxury of being particular in their choosing.
Angele Almost Blew the Show’s Cover
Angele Cooper is one of 60 Days In’s most controversial participants; originally joining the show in order to better understand the rehabilitation processes of inmates, the athlete-turned-writer threw fans for a serious loop when she and an inmate formed a physical relationship during her time in jail. According to InTouchWeekly, things became much more complicated when Angele admitted to her partner that she wasn’t an actual inmate.
Not only did this jeopardize the integrity of 60 Days In, but it also could have put everyone in serious danger. Were it known by some of the prison population that one or more phony inmates were wandering around, the Folsom County Jail could have been home to all kinds of violent and hazardous behavior.
It Strays Far from the Documentary Genre
The way that the show’s producers edit sequences together can, at times, form a their own narrative. It’s practices like this that have been the main source of controversy, with some calling for the show to be presented as a docu-drama rather than a true documentary.
However, as covered by Starcasm, despite its creative take on the prison experience, season 1 inmate DiAundré Newby still believes that 60 Days In offers some useful insight to viewers. As the only real inmate from the first season, it’s safe to say that his opinion of the series carries a little more weight than that of the average viewer.
The Show Misrepresents Much of the Prison Population
The portrayal of the prison population is a controversial subject for any number of reasons. Many see an over-representation of minorities in mainstream portrayals of US prisons, leading to an unnecessary racial narrative. In the case of 60 Days In, many of the inmates were portrayed as substance-crazed lowlifes.
Season 1, in particular, depicts a number of inmates snorting powder on camera. However, as DiAundré Newby explained to Radar Online, these scenes weren’t exactly what they appeared. “There are these things called Stonewalls (tobacco pills) and they’re not really illegal, you can purchase them on commissary for $12 a box,” he said.
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