By Patrick Donovan – Author/Screenwriter
US Navy Disabled Veteran – 1980 – 1991
Seattle, WA (The Hollywood Times) 01/31/2020
“If you’ve never been to jail, this show scares you straight out of the gate. If you have, this show will/should keep you out. 60 Days In is an intimate look inside one of the country’s toughest county jails and one you never want to be a resident of.”
– Patrick Donovan
About the Series:
“60 Days In” – Premiered Thursday, January 2 at 10pm ET/PT
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, as the newly elected Sheriff takes over one of the worst facilities the series has ever seen. After two decades, the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama is under new management and the newly elected Sheriff is determined to make a change. In his first week, he decided to shakedown the facility and in one day alone, found more than 200 broken door locks, drugs and removed more than two tons of contraband.
With no time to lose, Sheriff Horton along with The Chief, Keith Peek and select members of their team have agreed to embed innocent participants to uncover the issues that plague the facility. This season, the participants will face the biggest challenge of their lives in an effort to rid a jail, that is in dire need of help, of contraband and corruption before it is too late.
“60 Days In” is produced by Lucky 8 for A&E Network with Greg Henry, Kim Woodard and Jeff Grogan serving as executive producers. Shelly Tatro, Brad Holcman and Molly Ebinger serve as executive producers for A&E Network.
Seven Go In:
Alex – Political Science Major
Ashley – Police Officer
Dennis – Former College Quarterback
Jacob – Corrections Officer
Jennifer – Born Again Christian
Matt – Marine/Superfan
Shanese – Teacher for At Risk Youth
The Sheriff – Jonathon Horton
The Chief – Keith Peek
The Facility – Etowah County Jail, Alabama
This jails really messed up… this place sucks, it sucks… it violates every possible human
right…it’s HARD! These are just the few of the comments that start off this intense series.
Welcome to Etowah County, AL. The heart of dixie. A very conservative Christian community.
A couple things they don’t do on Sundays: They don’t cut grass, they don’t hunt. It’s the sabbath day.
The jail holds up to 865 inmates. They are well over 1000. The officer to inmate ratio is one officer to ten inmates. The first thing Sheriff Jonathon Horton did after being elected Sheriff was a massive shakedown. He found over 5000 lbs. of contraband. He expected contraband but not to that magnitude.
Over 200 locks on cells were found broken and the whole jail was, itself, broken. So what the sheriff did was bring in seven brave civilians into the detention center. Sheriff Horton looks forward to the skillset that each brings to the table if they are ready. This will be a very difficult task. Let’s see who makes it. Sheriff Horton doesn’t believe that these participants are ready for what they are about to face. That’s why he wants to speak to them first and feel them out.
They practice self-defense with other deputies that are PPT (Pressure Point Trained) and MMA fighter trained. They choose Matt to go in first and he wasn’t ready. Had to deal with family issues and h is nervous. But he’s a Marine and the Sheriff feels he is the best choice to go in first.
Remember, he’s a Marine, right? USMC, the toughest of the tough. Leathernecks. Watch for yourself and you decide.
Now the three females, Jennifer, Shanese and Ashley need to be trained due to the concerns in the women’s pod. There are more fights in the womens unit than in the mens unit. They need to be cautious of what they do. Ashley, to protect herself, tells everyone outside the Sheriff and Deputies that she’s Army National Guard which she’s been in for over 12 years. For Jennifer, her motto is: “If I can change someone’s mind their actions will follow.” Let’s see how well that motto works for Jennifer, hmmm? The inmates have friends, these ladies do not.
Matt arrives as a inmate at the jail. He is anxious, worried, lost. Reality sets in as he thought he had it figured out and he doesn’t. Ashley is selected as the first female to go to Jail. They believe that her being a police officer will give her that edge to be successful. Once inside, she notices cracks in the pat-down, things that she normally does better. This is why she’s doing this to help the sheriff fix this broken jail.
Dennis goes in and he feels that he is going in with a position of authority. He seems cocky and is counseled on his appearance by Sheriff Horton and his team. To him, it’s not important that he’s going into a real-life jail. He feels extremely confident but I believe that confidence is misguided and will cost him. Dennis is cocky… and in the pod, he’s already is being told to sit down by the guards, as he’s doing pull-ups off the second floor beams showing off. He seems to be “giving” the appearance he’s trying to become the chief cook and bottle washer of the pod.
Other inmates try to give him some friendly advice but Dennis ignores it. Tsk, Tsk, Tsk. Shanese is up and meets the arresting team. She is on her way to the jail and like all those that come before her, it’s intake time. Also, Shanese has Celiac Disease. She can’ eat gluten. This request is blown off by the guards. She can’t eat what they give her for breakfast: Fried chicken fingers, two slices of bread with cheese and grits. No fruit. Shanese goes hungry.
Ashley makes friends with her cellmate that helps her out when the guard abandons her, naked in her cell, with no fresh clothes, no feminine products, nothing! The guard is seen eating at the pod control desk yapping on the phone completely ignoring Ashley’s pleas for help. Crickets.
Ashley’s given a bloody, torn and tattered sheet to sleep on and cover up with, no blanket. The sheriff has ZERO clue what’s going on, apparently. With no bra or clothes, her cellmate offers something of hers while Ashley crafts a bra out of the bloodied sheet. Ingenious!
Matt is terrified as none of the doors lock so if someone wants to do something to you all they have to do is open the door. Something happens that’s never happened before and it puts the entire program in jeopardy! You need to watch this because people who believed they are strong have a lot of trouble working through what needs to be done.
It’s things like this that get the attention of the sheriff that he needs to be made aware of. Watch as these 7 souls brave the terror of being “60 Days In” the Etowah County Jail.
Here’s the transcribed Interview. The actual Audio Interview is at the end of this.
How are you doing?
Hi, I am doing awesome and amazing. How are you?
Great, thank you
Outstanding. Well, I appreciate you. Thank you for joining me and taking the time to speak to the Hollywood Times. Tell me first about who you are and what you do Shanese?
For the last nine years I have been educator with at-risk youth. I’ve always loved kids but at the point in my life when I found out that I couldn’t have kids, I knew it was time to help other kids. I also have a creative business and you know, somebody told me that I have to do the creative business because when you’re working with kids, especially at risk youth, you don’t see an immediate, turn around, but you can see that with immediate gratification with, you know, creating things with my hands. And so I enjoy doing both of those and having a balance.
Wow, that’s amazing! After watching the first two episodes and seeing what you endured. Please talk to me about your experience from intake to going through to the end of episode two.
Seriously? So, I did feel like it really wasn’t going to happen. That’s the way that I could get through not to think about like, I’m really going to jail! So, I’m really like, excited about this but I was very nervous in intake. I was like, oh, oh, this is really happening now! I was very nervous. I was afraid to eat before going in and so I knew I was going to have some issues. Once I went in there was a young lady telling me about her experience. She found to a tooth in the food and that was it for me.
I was like, I think it’s time to leave. Help! It’s time to leave. And so, you know, I knew the cameras were there and once I walked in I said, okay, it’s game time. I was okay until some of the things that they gave me weren’t sanitary. When I walked in and actually went up to the pod and saw all of the women, it just made me nervous because I was thinking, “I’ve never seen this many women in previous seasons,” but I knew that this was something that I committed to do. And so, when I walked in to talk to my roommate, she was not having it, she was so not having it.
But we ended up becoming very close and you know, just watching some of the things that happened it’s a little shocking cause, I’m like, “wow!”, I really endured that so it was something that I wanted to do to be selfless. To try to get information for various things in my life from Celiac Disease to, you know, working with my kids. And so I think really that those first two episodes it was a real wake-up call for me. It got real for me! It got real.
So it kind of leads me into my next questions and here’s a couple of rapid-fire ones. What did you expect? What shocked you? What didn’t shock you and did you make friends or enemies, which, you’ve already asked actually answered.
Shanese: Okay. Okay. What did I expect… I expected some things to be messed up. I didn’t expect everything to be messed up. I expected to have issues with the inmates and not the CO;s (correctional officers). When I got there the inmates were pretty nice and that was kind of shocking to me because these are potential criminals; people that I shouldn’t have anything in common with but at the end of the day they’re people too and I had a lot of things in common with them. I made a lot, I onto say
friendships because I use that word, well, I take it seriously when I use that word, but a lot of connections while I was in there and I did not expect that at all.
Well tell me about your most harrowing experience while you were in, meaning, did you ever feel you were in danger or experience total fear? But then on the opposite side, what gave you comfort if you can say being in jail is comforting.
Ooh, okay. So, let’s do the comforting thing first, that’s pretty easy. My roommate is what really made me feel comfortable. She had been in and out of the system for, let me see; twenty-five years. Um, so she really knew the ropes and she knew what I
needed to do and I just didn’t expect to have that type of relationship. She gave me, you know, my soap and my cup [drinking] like these are the things you’re going to need and I’m like, who are you? Why are you being so nice to me? And then what was the other one? I’m sorry.
The other one was: Tell me about the most harrowing experience while you were in meaning: did you ever feel in danger or experience total fear?
I never really felt in danger, um, really my fear came from knowing that if I did something stupid or reacted while I was in there that I could catch a real charge. So that was my, my fear with communicating with certain CO’s, cuz I knew I had to
keep it calm, cool, and collected because: A) I didn’t want to catch an extra charge and B) I can’t tell my kids to walk away from a situation and then I don’t.
Wow. So basically you’re saying that you could have been actually charged with something in there even though you were on the show?
Yeah, it’s, it’s Jail. So, yeah, anything that happened that I was caught with it, there was a potential that I could have been charged and I didn’t need that in my life.
No, you didn’t. So how is it being an at-risk youth teacher help you? How didn’t it help you? And what did you draw from that guided you through this experience?
Okay, that’s an excellent question. A lot of things that my kids and some of this probably won’t make it, cuz it was said outside of the camera, Some of the things that my kids said to me that I thought was like, out of control while like, you’re really crazy, because you said that. I’ve learned slang, the lingo, the things that people say, and all of that doing those things, really helped.
I think the thing that probably harmed me is I didn’t go in there telling people that I was an educator and that, you know, have degrees or any of that. I didn’t do that. However, there were a lot of people in there that were trying to get their GED’s and the teacher side of me wants to help and there was a point where I’m like, “hey, let me…” err, I have to back up because that’s just my nature to want to help because they’re taking the GED and I teach the GED. So it was hard to take that balance you’re not a teacher right now. You’re an inmate and you need to remember that and act like it.
What did you learn or take away from being a part of 60 days in and would you ever do it again?
One of the things that I learned is, even though people are in jail, everybody’s not guilty and so that was one of the things that I was like, You don’t want to do that! You know, if you don’t want to deal with it then you shouldn’t do the crime, but I didn’t understand hearing from my past students about different experiences in jail or some of the parents in prison. I just didn’t fully understand. I thought that they were making excuses but I saw first-hand that some of the things they said were definitely true.
Yeah. Did you think you bit off more than you could chew in this life experience, and do you believe, that what you and the other participants did indeed help Sheriff Jonathon Horton?
I… uh… well, the only reason I’m going to say I felt like I bit off more than I can chew is because I have Celiac Disease. I assumed that they would be able to treat me, not treat me, but feed me the way that I see that Celiac person needs to be fed
and they didn’t. As far as being helpful in getting things changed; I absolutely think so. I think that Sheriff Horton really wants to see a change. I’ve spent time with him, you know off camera not in jail and just talking to him and I think that he really wants to make a change. I think that he knew that there were some issues. He knew that the issues were on top but we were able to get him some information to really, really help. So I want to go back. I want to go back in, you know, in a few months and see what has really changed. If anything.
It’s funny you bring it up because when I was watching the episode and you spoke of your Celiac disease and they gave you chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, and something else and no fruit, you were just there like totally dumbfounded…
…and you went hungry! And that just kind of blew me away seeing that guard sitting at the guard area eating and playing on the computer and not really caring about you or even others, right?
Yeah. Very true. Very true statement.
I kind of thought so yeah after watching them. Do you think that they will implement some of the things or all of the things you and your fellow cast members experienced?
I definitely think if not all, I think some. You know, one of the things that I felt in a couple of other people, was that they were very sexist in as far as what they provided to the men and what they provided to the women. I don’t really think those
things are going to change. I think the things as far as safety, you know, like getting the body scanner to stop bringing in drugs, you know, I think those things are going to improve. But I don’t think that when you have two people that are in charge that are not a female, they don’t understand the importance of having a panties, sports bras, and they don’t understand that.
After seeing Ashley and what she went through… that really disturbed me and that brings up a very important point and I am seeing that maybe perhaps approaching the women’s side a bit differently would be something that they would need to seriously take into consideration. Do you agree?
Yes. I definitely agree. I definitely agree.
Would you encourage others to do 60 days In and what advice can you give others who want to be cast members?
I would definitely encourage people to go in because it’s, it’s such a good feeling to know that you were able to help people. One of the things I wanted to do was to mentor women in there and I did that.
What advice can you give others who’d want to participate in the “60 Days In” program?
Ok! So the advice I would give others would be: don’t go in there with any expectations. I went in there with some expectations that it would be, you know, some people would be nice and there would be some parts that would be clean, you know. I had expectations and it made my time harder because once those
expectations weren’t met, you know, I was like whoa! So that would be one thing is: just do not have any expectations. Do your research on not just the jail culture but the do’s and don’ts… that you need to wear a sports bra when you come in if you’re
a woman and you need to have panties. Just do your research. I spent months researching and so that is something… just don’t have expectations and do your research on the culture of the criminal justice system.
Well listen, I don’t want to keep you but I really appreciate the time you’ve taken, your bravery, and for your help to fix a truly broken jail. God bless you, Shanese
Thank you so much.
…and want to give you kudos and for everything, for what you’ve done. It was amazing. I can’t wait to see the other episodes.
I know me too, Yay!!!!
Click to listen to the actual interview with Shanese