A&E Network has been the go-to platform for the best non-fiction gritty drama and reality programs, especially crime-centered ones. 

Its 60 Days In docuseries that premiered in 2016 has a unique premise. Seven innocent, law-abiding people volunteer to go undercover for two months at the notorious Clark County Jail in Jeffersonville, IN, to help a frustrated sheriff expose gangs, drugs, and corruption problems in his prison and discover what really happens behind bars.

The program devised by Sheriff Jamey Noel to eliminate the facility’s corrupt history, houses approximately 500 prisoners, from inmates charged with drug dealing to first-time offenders and capital murderers. The participants were booked under false charges and given fabricated criminal backgrounds to blend seamlessly with the inmates. 

Initially, the show was to be unrehearsed and provide an unprecedented prison viewing experience. Now in its sixth season, viewers wonder if the show touts its storyline for the audience because, ultimately, it falls on the reality TV spectrum. 

Shocking Discoveries

The producers of the show claim that it was not scripted. Executive producer, Greg Henry, said that productions that focus on jails are usually biased depending on who is being interviewed, and to avoid that, they recruited ordinary citizens to get a truly unbiased perspective.

Despite the dubious veracity over the show, the sheriffs were able to discover the working of the inmates and bring about changes. They found inmates invented the “crack stick” by crushing the e-cigarette filter and wrapping it in coffee-soaked toilet paper to catch a buzz. 

Another shocking discovery was how contraband circulated in prison. The trustees, inmates selected for jobs like food preparation and garbage collection, stashed drugs into the women’s pod on food trays. And, of course, we cannot forget the violence that occurs. It seemed inmates switched to wearing sneakers before a fight because jail-issued sandals were ineffective. 

The inmates also relied on cellphones to coordinate drug deals and attacks and with inmates in other jail wings, and their choice of weapons during the rampage was usually a makeshift knife made of a toothbrush. 

Is 60 Days In Real or Scripted? 

While the secrets uncovered have definitely brought changes in the prisons, some participants claim the producers edited heavily to influence the viewers. Robert Holcomb, one of the participants, maintained that the series portrayed his fellow inmates in the wrong light.

They tried to make it look like I was going to be attacked. The show made inmates look like animals; in reality, they were kind human beings suffering from drug problems.

Season 1 inmate DiAundré Newby iterated that while the show offered some valuable insight to viewers, it was also made for entertainment. He revealed that the production crew altered the reality to give a different meaning to get the rating up. 

Evidently, 60 Days In seeks to highlight the nuances and functioning of a prison. But it still is reality TV, and viewers should take the narrative with a grain of salt, especially since such series use deceptive editing, dramatic music, ramping up the “stakes” to make it more intense and appealing.