Sheriff Jonathon Horton has led a storied career, involving military and mortuary services. He was elected as the Etowah County Sheriff and took over the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama, then decided to feature the worst facility he’d ever seen on A&E’s 60 Days In.
The 60 Days In season finale serves as a moment of truth for Horton. He performs one final shakedown at the jail to see how much the facility has improved since he first took office, according to A&E. The season comes full circle with the finale episode. On the series premiere, Horton decided to do a shakedown of the facility in his first week in office. In just one day, he and his officers found 200 broken door locks and removed two tons of contraband.
The 60 Days In finale airs at 10 p.m. EST Thursday, April 16, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know:
Sheriff Jonathon Horton Previously Worked as a Funeral Director & a Police Chief
Jonathon Horton took office to serve as Etowah County’s sheriff in 2019. Before that, he held a series of roles in law enforcement, including working as the police chief in Rainbow City. At the same time, he was working as a part-time funeral director for his family’s funeral home, Glencoe-Hokes Bluff Funeral Home, according to the Gadsden Messenger. The funeral home does not currently list Horton on its staff page. At the time, he was working at the funeral home every other weekend.
“I have always been inclined and motivated to help people,” he told the newspaper in 2018. “I began my career serving my country in the United States Navy from 1992-1996 right after high school. I returned home in 1996 and began serving my community as a funeral director. I always had a desire to be a law enforcement officer to make a difference and help people in a time of need.”
He told the publication he was married to Angela Holcomb Horton. Horton’s wife is a registered nurse. He also has three children, all daughters.
Horton also told the story about his father’s funeral home to A&E.
“In 1992, I followed in my grandfather’s footsteps and joined the Navy, in San Diego,” he said. “I did my four years, and my father, who was in the family mortuary business, had opened a new funeral home. I went to mortuary college and began to manage that funeral home, but I missed the military. I joined the Alabama Army National Guard and spent five years there.”
Jonathon Horton Was Elected as Sheriff in 2018 & Began His Term in 2020
Shortly after Jonathon Horton was elected to office, he knew he wanted to participate in A&E’s program, 60 Days In. He was in contact with the show’s producers before he took office, but after he was elected, according to The Gadsden Times. He took office in January 2019, and filming concluded November 8, 2019.
Horton previously spent time in the military, and served as military police, which piqued his interest in law enforcement, he told A&E. He served in both the Navy and the Alabama Army National Guard. Shortly after 9/11, he was called to serve as active duty in the U.S. Army and assigned to the military police.
“Right after September 11, my guard unit in Alabama got activated to a year of active duty, and I was converted to military police,” he told A&E. “That’s when I got interested in law enforcement—it was sort of like a bug bit me. I worked my way from patrol, the first year, to criminal investigations. I was a narcotics agent, too, and pretty much everything except for a dispatcher and correctional officer.”
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office website spells out Horton’s duties as sheriff, which stretch much further than maintaining the facility.
It is my Honor to Serve as Your Sheriff. The Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement services to the people of Etowah County through Patrol Operations, Criminal Investigations Division, Corrections Division, School Resource Officer Division, Warrant Division, Civil Paper Division, Special Operations Division and the Etowah County Drug Enforcement Unit. We also have a proud staff of volunteers that serve with the Etowah County Reserve Unit and Community Resources Division.
One of the primary duties of Sheriff ‘s in Alabama is to act as an officer of the courts. The Sheriff is responsible for service of court papers and documents. The Sheriff also maintains the Etowah County Detention Center; where up to a total of 950 inmates may be housed. As your Sheriff, I pledge to provide you the best possible service through highly trained, confident, concerned and qualified personnel.
Sheriff Jonathon Horton Said the Etowah County Detention Center Is Still Understaffed & Overcrowded
The Etowah County Detention Center remains understaffed and overcrowded, even after the extensive progress he made at the facility. Sheriff Jonathon Horton told The Gadsden Times in November, 2019 – after filming was done – that there is still much more work to be done. The final shakedown of the season took place on the final day of filming, which was November 8, 2019. On that day, corrections officers found $16 cash, two shanks and about two bags of soft contraband, which are items that aren’t necessarily illegal on the outside but break jail rules.
The Etowah County Detention Center now continues to face problems. Sheriff Horton told the newspaper that the jail was built to house 865 inmates. On average, the facility houses more than 1,000 people, he said in November. The jailer-inmate ratio on average is 1-75. At ECDC, it’s 1-110 or 1-120, according to November statistics. On the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office website on April 15, 2020, Horton writes that up to 950 people are housed in the facility.
The jail also faced a huge problem with turnover rates among its corrections officers. Retention has improved, the newspaper reported. The training period in the facility was increased from three weeks to five weeks, and Horton implemented a three-step raise program to help keep staff, according to a January 2020 article. Read more about the changes to the facility here.
The jail also had significant structural problems, which were difficult to repair because this required moving inmates to a different part of the facility. An annex was being built so that inmates could be moved there during repairs. The Gadsden Times reported in November that the annex was nearing completion.
More than 600 inmates signed waivers to be filmed. Others had their faces blurred on the show. Officials in Etowah County were concerned about the impression the show gave of the area and the facility, the newspaper reported.
“This makes us look so bad,” one of the sheriff’s employees said at the Etowah County Commission Chambers.