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 favourite for fans of all things gritty.
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 60 Days In has also obtained a large fan base. The show followed a series of individuals as they went into the Clark and Fulton County Jails for, you guessed it, 60 days. These individuals were given fabricated criminal backgrounds and were meant to be seamlessly integrated into the general prison population.
The goal for 60 Days In was to get the inside scoop on the prison experience. By essentially giving the narrative over to a group of average people, the production team hoped to get a good overall idea of what goes on behind bars.
If the premise of 60 Days In didn’t sound crazy enough, we’ve got more for you. Here are the 15 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets About 60 Days In.
15 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 a surprise element to the show or to ensure that the cast aren’t dramatically altering their behaviour.
In the case of 60 Days In, one cast member claims that the production team lied to him about the show’s ultimate goal.
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 you.
Rob brought a bit of a trashy reality show vibe to 60 Days In, both in his on and off-screen involvement.
A lot of reality shows and docu-series bank of having a striking personality in front of the camera to draw in viewers. Despite the validity of some of his criticism towards the show, we’re not sure whether Rob was the best choice for 60 Days In.
14 Some of the Most Crazy Things Took Place Off Camera
There’s no doubt that 60 Days In offered a unique perspective to those outside the prison system. Some of the things that inmates could obtain or get away with was 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 were off.
Following the filming of 60 Days In season 3, Adger and the jail staff intercepted a letter on its way out of the Fulton County Jail.
Though the letter may read normal to the untrained eye, but 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.
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 letter itself also shows the level of sophistication that some of the inmates have risen to. Although the inmates have their flaws, they certainly seem to have a combination of book smarts and street smarts.
13 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 of us 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, most importantly, the conflicts and politics within an isolated gang.
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.
In an attempt to maintain the impression of being a unified group, internal gang conflicts were often resolved through physical violence outside the view of the camera.
Burrell described the gang’s method of resolution as getting two or more conflicting members into a secluded room for a quick fight.
This is valuable insight for anyone interested in the world of organized crime. While from the outside, it may seem like these are undignified individuals, actions like the ones that Nate Burrell describes show a sense of sophistication.
For gangs, it seems like appearance is everything.
12 The Show’s Manipulative Editing
One of the biggest hurdles that documentaries face is the editing process. Leave too much in, and you might be dealing with a boring movie or TV show. Cut too much out, and you compromise the message that you’re 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 paints an unfair portrait of the general prison population.
The production team’s argument is that they have to air an interesting, informative show week after week. If they showed all the downtime between “excitement,” the show would become real boring pretty quickly.
11 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. Simple enough, right? Well, 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 exact circumstances surrounding Angele’s removal aren’t clear, but given how much the fans seem to dislike her, it could be that the inmates weren’t too fond of her either.
While it’s no doubt difficult to plan out a show like 60 Days In, it would’ve been nice to see all the inmates stay as long as they were meant to. We guess 28 Days In doesn’t have the same ring to it.
10 The Show’s Title Cards Weren’t Always Honest
It’s one thing to use “creative” editing to shift the tone of a scene, but there are some claims that 60 Days In straight up lied to its viewer.
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.
While this may seem like a fairly minor change to the actual events, it has relatively large implications.
By suggesting that the altercation between Newbey and the other inmate had something to do with his friendly treatment of Robert, it gives viewers the idea that the pseudo-inmate could be in a greater sense of danger than he actually is.
9 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 like 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.
Henry’s goal for 60 Days In was to portray the average person’s experience in jail-- just ordinary people with no bias in mind. Whether or not he accomplished that, however, is still up for debate.
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.
Big name documentarians like Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock have been criticized for presenting their movies in a very one-sided fashion, even spawning response films.
Knowing how strong Gregory Henry felt about presenting the show in such a neutral way certainly adds to 60 Days In’s viewing experience.
8 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 4 seasons makes the answer fairly obvious, though the legal hurdles that the production team had to work around might not be what you’d expect.
The fake inmates were a piece of cake as far as the show’s lawyers were concerned. It turns out that it’s a relatively simple process to get a civilian into the general prison population.
As the production team came to discover, though, avoiding the violation of the actual inmates’ rights was the biggest hurdle.
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 favour of one that didn’t intrude upon anyone’s rights.
7 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.
Would he be surprised with what he saw or would it be business as usual? Viewers tuned in each week to find out.
As for Alan, the cop was eager to get a true understanding of how inmates were treated by corrections officers.
However, it seems he didn’t like what he discovered.
The show was a pretty somber experience for Alan, it seems. 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.
While this must certainly have shaken up the lives of Alan Oliver and those close to him, one can’t help but see his resignation as a victory of sorts for the show.
Executive producer Gregory Harvey had hoped to present an honest portrayal of the US prison system and, at the very least, he succeeded in presenting that to Alan.
6 Some of the Cast Got Too into Their Role
There's the famous saying: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Well, for the contestants on 60 Days In, it was more like “when in prison, do as the prisoners do.”
For both dedicated viewers and those involved in making the show, the question of how an average person would react to suddenly being thrown into the prison system was too intriguing to pass up.
Colonel Mark Adger was particularly interested in seeing whether or not the short term jail stay would have a noticeable impact.
“They began to identify with their fellow inmates, began to take on some of the attributes of their fellow inmates, they began to become like them, they tried to manipulate the system, they tried to build up allegiances within the housing unit to offset the threats they may perceive within that housing unit, they adjusted just like any other person that would adjust being in jail – they were really no different,” he stated.
They sure picked things up fast. Adger was surprised at just how quickly the cast picked up their new habits, though not surprised that it happened.
The Fulton County Jail Colonel noted that the jail environment leads to an entirely different mode of behaviour.
5 How They Found the Participants
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.
Whatever the reason may be, executive producer Gregory Henry had no shortage of people willing to participate in the show. In fact, he and his production team had quite the opposite problem.
“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," he said.
With such a wide variety of people willing to participate, the production team got the luxury of being particular in their choosing.
In an effort to try and get the best average opinion on the prison system, the team tried to select participants from all walks of life.
For the first season, they chose from the family of those previously incarcerated to those in law enforcement.
4 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.
While Angele was the first on the show to form an intimate relationship with another inmate, it probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.
Inmates are still people and, as such, desire companionship. What really complicated things was when Angele told her new 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 phoney inmates were wandering around, the Folsom County Jail could have been home to all kinds of violent and hazardous behaviour.
Despite the criticism thrown her way, Angele Cooper doesn’t seem to have any regrets regarding her decision.
Adopting a “you only live once” mentality, Angele looked at the situation simply as one of life’s many ups and downs.
3 It Strays Far from the Documentary Genre
If it hasn’t become clear already, many have taken issue with the show calling itself a docu-series.
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.
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.
Would the show have been as interesting had the production team behind 60 Days In showed everything exactly as it transpired? We’re not sure we want to know the answer.
As viewers, we’re left to form our own opinion based on what’s presented to us.
It’s tough to say whether or not seeing more than just the highlights would have changed our perception of the show.
2 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 explains, 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.
"And people who had a habit of snorting stuff on the streets would take these Stonewalls and crush them up and make them into a line and snort them," Newby stated. "It really didn’t do anything for them other than the placebo effect of having something in their nose.”
Substance addiction is undoubtedly a problem across North America and the rest of the world, especially for those behind bars. However, the portrayal of some of these addicts on 60 Days In doesn’t paint a very sympathetic picture.
1 There’s Talk of a UK Remake
It seems like nothing is safe from being remade these days. Whether it be in the form of a Hollywood blockbuster or of a television series or special, the movie and TV industry seems always on the lookout for good remake candidates.
For 60 Days In, this is rumoured to be coming in the form of a UK remake of the show. Currently airing internationally as The Jail: 60 Days In, the A&E docu-series is hoping to explore the inner workings of the United Kingdom’s prison system within the next few years with it's own version of 60 Days In.
While there have been a number of documentaries and series on prison systems in Russia, Norway, and other European countries, the United Kingdom prison system has not nearly been as thoroughly explored.
Shows like Britain’s Toughest Prisons scratch the surface, but they present the prisons in a very one-dimensional manner.
While it would certainly be a treat to get an inside look at another prison system, we wouldn’t suggest holding your breath. With a different bureaucratic structure than the US prison system, it’s likely that authorization for filming across the pond could take some time to obtain.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about 60 Days In? Sound off in the comments!