FLORENCE — A popular television series that has civilians go undercover and pose as jail inmates is using the Pinal County Adult Detention Center as one of its next filming sites.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is providing access for producers of “60 Days In” to its jail facilities in Florence, according to agency spokeswoman Navideh Forghani.
In a statement, she said the intent is for PCSO to gather information on possible gang activity occurring within the jail and determine the effectiveness of programs offered to inmates.
The documentary series, which just finished airing its fourth season on A&E Network, recruits volunteers to pose as inmates for 60 days inside a jail.
The show’s first two seasons aired in 2016 and took place at the Clark County Jail in Indiana. The most recent season takes place at a jail in Georgia.
A representative for A&E confirmed in an email that season five of the show was filmed at the Pinal County jail. But they could not provide a date for when the next season will air.
Pinal County’s diverse population was appealing to the production team, the network representative added, as producers were interested in spotlighting different demographics.
Previous participants of the show came from a variety of backgrounds; some were teachers, retired cops or military veterans. PCSO is not involved with how civilians are selected to be on the show. The participants are given fake identities and instructed how to act around other inmates.
Producers tell the real inmates they’re filming a documentary about first-time jail inmates. Only a limited number of personnel are supposed to know about the undercover recruits so that participants can observe their job performance.
The show led to the firing of five corrections officers at the Clark County Jail because of misbehavior exposed by the fake inmates, according to the Courier-Journal.
“60 Days In” will be the second reality show to be filmed in Pinal County within the last year. Last October, the Board of Supervisors approved a contract to allow producers of “Live PD” to follow PCSO deputies around on patrol.
Both shows air on the same network.
The supervisors approved another agreement in December for Kingfish Pictures to gain access inside the county jail and film the day-to-day business of staff and inmates.
The agreement does not name what television show the footage would be used for, but at the time the board approved it, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said it was a separate production from “Live PD.”
The sheriff further told the board that anybody participating in the project would have to sign release forms. The board unanimously approved the agreement.
Pinal County Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, told PinalCentral on Tuesday he hopes something good comes out of participating with the show and that it’s not done just for entertainment.
Jail is a dangerous place, Miller added, so he’s concerned about somebody getting hurt during the production process.
According to the county’s access agreement, the show’s producers “shall defend, indemnify and hold harmless” Pinal County officials for any injuries or damages caused by the show’s employees. But the show still has the right to legally challenge any litigation or claims that may arise.
The agreement further obligates the show’s producers to provide any footage that pertains to an open investigation launched by PCSO within the jail facilities.
PCSO will be allowed to review each episode of the show before it airs and object to any content that might infringe on privacy rights or expose sensitive security matters. The producers will then have to make an effort to edit the footage before submitting the episode to the network.
The producers will not be required to pay PCSO for documenting its property or personnel, according to the agreement, but may have to reimburse the agency for any time staff spends on assisting producers during production.
Forghani said PCSO was approached by the show to participate in production. The agency is in the process of collecting information gathered by the show’s participants, she added, and implementing changes that will make the jail safer for inmates and staff.
Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios, whose district includes Florence, said he hopes the television show will help PCSO in recruiting new corrections officers at the jail. He was initially against Pinal County’s involvement with the other reality show, “Live PD,” but doesn’t have the same reservations for “60 Days In” because county employees were made aware of the project before the deal was finalized.
Some previous participants of “60 Days In” have been publicly critical about how they feel the show was not an accurate depiction of jail life.
Robert Holcomb, an undercover inmate in Season One, called the show’s producers “slimy” and “sleazy” for how they edited footage of him, according to a YouTube video Holcomb posted in 2016.
DiAundre Newby, who was a real inmate at Clark County Jail during the show’s first season, told News and Tribune in 2016 he felt some incidents captured on camera were taken out of context and altered to be more entertaining.