The series, which premiered in 2016, puts civilians undercover as inmates for 60 days to record their findings. Only a few staffers know the identity of these inmates during filming.
This season, Etowah was billed as “one of the worst facilities the series has ever seen.”
Etowah Is in the Heart of a Conservative, Christian Community
In a promo for the season, Etowah County Sheriff Jonathan Horton describes Etowah as a conservative, Christian community. “There’s a lot of things we don’t do on Sunday,” he says. “We don’t cut grass, we don’t hunt, it’s the sabbath day. We enjoy eating Friday chicken and work six other days of the week.”
The cameras began filming in Etowah around the same time that Horton took office. He explains, “I wanted to become sheriff so I could make a difference in the detention center and the community.” The jail, which was built for 865 inmates, currently houses more than 1,000, according to The Tuscaloosa News.
This season, seven people went into Etowah, including a corrections officer, a former Marine, an entrepreneur, a political science major, a faith-based operations manager, a teacher for at-risk youth, and a police officer.
Speaking to AL.com, Horton shared of the candidates’ experience in the detention center, “I knew when I came into office this jail had a lot of problems, but it was pretty extreme.” He continued, “This jail is really broken. We need ’60 Days In’ more than any jail in America.”
Only 3 Candidates Lasted for the Full 60 Days
An A&E press release about this season reads, “For the first time in ’60 Days In’ history, more participants struggle to survive the intense program and are forced to quit the program early.” Only three of the seven volunteers lasted.
On top of that, 11 correctional officers resigned and six were fired. Most officers who lost their job were involved in contraband, with at least one using excessive force with “spray” in the jail, according to US News. Another kept an inmate on lockdown for longer than necessary.
Horton tells The Tuscaloosa News of filming the series, “It’s the ultimate transparency. Even though these things are hard to watch, and it hurts your pride. It still gives you a good baseline of where we need to go to correct it.”
According to The Gadsden Times, things that were uncovered during filming have led to improvements in the jail, including the addition of a full-body scanner to find contraband being brought into the prison. Since filming, alterations have also been made to corrections officers’ schedules.
The show also gave Horton insight as to just how that contraband was getting in. As Horton came to learn, it would often come back in with inmates after their court appearances.
US News reports that after all the above changes were implemented, the contraband situation improved at Etowah. Whereas 5,000 pounds were uncovered in the first shakedown, the most recent found just $16 in cash, two shanks, and two bags of contraband.
60 Days In airs Thursdays at 10pm on A&E.