60 Days in Jail is a sobering look at a county-level penal institution in the US from the perspective of seven volunteers who will live incognito alongside the prison’s inmates.
Each has been fully briefed and counselled and should be aware of what they are letting themselves in for. However, four episodes in, this clearly is not the case and two, in particular, are way, way out of their depth; a stay-at-home mum who resents prisoners who she believes receive more benefits and liberty than her soldier husband, and a teacher, Robert, who stated before the gates slammed shut behind him, that prison was going to be like a country club environment and he was going to make a whole lot of new friends.
As a documentary series, it is difficult to see what its message is. Its content could be seen as having deterrent value, or it could be used more malevolently as a dog whistle against the perceived easy life criminals enjoy behind bars.
Sheriff Jamey Noel of Clark County, Indiana, who devised the scheme claims it will help to root out crime and corruption in his jail. A worthy claim if true, but this feels more like Big Brother on steroids!
The unique perspective he hopes to gain about how prisoners conceal contraband and smuggle drugs into the jail is dependent on the wide-eyed participants exposing themselves to wrongdoing, intimidation and explosive violence … all the while maintaining their cover. It does the show a disservice to use crass phrases like ‘snitches get stitches’, but one word out of place for the volunteers and thats what they’ll get.
60 Days in Jail Thursday 10pm, Channel 4