A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 60 Days In is a reality show about seven individuals who pose undercover in a county jail to expose corruption. The show plays up the more dangerous and violent aspects of jail, lingering on shots of prisoners fighting, smoking marijuana, and more. Guns are fired during target practice; discussion of crimes; references to and jokes about prison sex and rape. Participants are attacked, punched, and hurt; one is confined to solitary. Cursing includes frequent bleeped f--k and s--t." Drugs: marijuana and cocaine, used onscreen, as well as references to drugs in a criminal justice context.
What's the story?
Concerned about corruption in the Clark County, Indiana prison system, Sheriff Jamey Noel has launched a new program intended to root out the rotten apples: a group of seven innocent people will spend 60 DAYS IN. In jail, that is, with a teacher, a marine, a social worker, a stay-at-home mom and three others sent to separate locations, all undercover as offenders. Participants will live in the prisons as prisoners, while show producers film goings-on under the guise of producing a documentary. It's dangerous work, but those undertaking it hope that ultimately their participation will help their community's jails run better.
Is it any good?
Scary and interesting if a bit ethically suspect, this show satisfies the curiosity of non-offenders, who might wonder, "how would I handle it if I were imprisoned?" Watching the innocent mingle with the (presumed) guilty, however, has a side-effect: the viewer is complicit in a lie, since prisoners who appear on the show are told that they're being filmed for a "documentary." Were they told that it would be shown on national television and appear more as a reality show? We are shown the inmates signing releases, but not their informed consent, which adds a sleazy and unwelcome layer to this program. Nonetheless, it's absorbing enough, generally centering on the kind of drama that prison shows, reality or scripted, tend to center on: fights, people screaming, arguments over scarce resources, furtive prison sex. It may scare teens straight, but adults won't learn anything new.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about reality shows that focus on law enforcement. What messages do they send? Do you think showing the violent behavior of inmates and other illicit activities serves a purpose beyond being entertaining? If so, what?
Were you surprised to see real people doing drugs onscreen during 60 Days In? At what age is it OK for a teen to watch movies or TV shows with drug use?
Do you know any other reality shows that focus on the criminal justice system. Why are shows set in prisons entertaining or interesting to viewers?