Cable’s No. 1 nonfiction series — Season 2 of 60 Days In — returns to A&E tonight (Aug. 18 at 9/8c) with a fresh group of recruits trying to survive behind bars. Indiana’s Sheriff Jamey Noel took a big risk when he introduced a new program that planted over 100 cameras and a group of innocent individuals (all volunteers) into Clark County Jail. The result was a riveting social study of survival that made A&E’s 60 Days In the No. 1 nonfiction series on cable this year. But, more importantly, it was an informative tell-all on the internal corruption occurring within the prison’s walls (as well as a thoroughly entertaining view that had us thumping our head on the logic — and lack of — involving some of the participants).
Noel’s program involves complete immersion of the undercover inmates, where they live among the facility’s general population (in designated cell blocks) for 60 days. So how does “undercover” even work when Season 1 has already aired and prisoners have access to the outside world?
“We had already filmed most of Season 2 before Season 1 was publicly announced,” Noel tells us. “We did that for security reasons.” Ten days after participants from Season 1 exited, the new group were incarcerated. Noel is happy he had the chance to run the program twice.
“I think it’s invaluable — you can never get another opportunity to have, in this case, eight additional people offer their feedback,” Noel says of Season 2. “I jumped all over the idea to do a second round of the participants. Instead of seven points of view, now I’ve got 15 total points of view.”
Whether there’s another moron like Robert this season (anyone else find him beyond annoying?), Noel wasn’t willing to share, but eight new undercovers will be locked up, and from the looks of them, this could get even better. Ashleigh is the wife of Zac, the ex-Marine who kept his cool in Season 1. The 27-year-old Tennessean is leaving her 3-month-old son (and Zac). Ashleigh is a former alcohol and drug addict who has been sober for four years, so hoping this program doesn’t derail her. Dion is a 24-year-old Detroit criminologist who was raised by his grandma and believes the laws are biased (his father was incarcerated and eventually exonerated). Monalisa is a mother whose daughter was arrested for armed robbery at age 18 and is currently serving the third year in her 10-year mandatory sentence. Monalisa shares that she is emotionally broken over her daughter and wants to be a part of Noel’s program to help change what she believes is flawed in the judicial and correctional officers systems. She’s also the founder of Parents With Incarcerated Children. Brian is an attorney for the California Corrections and Rehabilitation Department. The married father of two (a 7-year-old and a toddler) wants to test how well correctional officers hold up to doing their job appropriately, and if inmates can be trusted when it comes to reports about COs. He could be the weak link in the group. Quintin is a retired state policeman, private investigator and bounty hunter. He has arrested over 1,000 people in his career. He’s a father of three and is currently going through a divorce. Sheri is a 39-year-old former corrections officer. She was a CO at a maximum security prison and describes the experience as “the most amazing job I ever had.” Sheri became a stay-at-home mom to her three kids when her husband was deployed. This should be a cake walk for her. Ryan is a 27-year-old Kentucky man who is currently applying to be a police officer, with hopes of eventually becoming a homicide detective. Thinking he might have some issues surviving the full 60 days. Lastly, Chris is “terrified of jail.” He’s from Georgia and wants to better connect with his brother who was incarcerated for four months and came back a complete stranger. All of them will serve as informants to Sheriff Noel.
In Season 1, in addition to identifying contraband entering the prison and the ways in which it was being circulated, Noel and his team discovered other things causing him to make some immediate changes.
“When we debriefed the undercover inmates after the show was over, on both Season 1 and 2, we learned that they were suffering from depression, they were anxious. One of them even said to me at the end that they felt like doing something to go back. That was weird to me because even though they were there voluntarily and they knew they were only there for 60 days, they were going through the same issues that the inmates are going through,” Noel shares. Now when an inmate leaves the jail, Noel said the staff provides them with support materials to help cope with common feelings and where to get the necessary help. “My goal is when they leave the jail, I hope they never come back again.”
As for what we can look forward to this season, a promo tease showed a raw sewage problem?
“We had an incident where the water company was replacing the water line outside of the jail. In doing that, when they covered it back up, the water line, at the seam area, had broken. They had nicked the sewer line at the time so the pressurized water – the fresh water main — was basically leaking into the sewage and was in turn back pulling pressurized combination of water and sewage back into the jail,” Noel explains. “It’s never happened before. I hope it never happens again. You would know that right in the middle of a program and filming a series like this that it would happen.” And, I’m sure producers rejoiced at the luck of that.
We’re taking bets now. Who do you think doesn’t have a chance to survive the full 60 days.
Season 2 of 60 Days In airs on A&E Thursdays at 10/9c.