Sarah Sanders Sounds Off On Netflix Series That Turns Arkansas Jail Into A ‘Free For All Reality Show’

Governor says jail experiment is 'dangerous and insulting to our brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to apprehend violent criminals'
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, speaks to members of the media outside the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 2, 2019.
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the upcoming Netflix series that follows inmates at an Arkansas detention center who are given nearly unlimited freedom as part of a social experiment was built around a “reckless decision” by the local sheriff and is “insulting” to law enforcement.

“Unlocked: A Jail Experiment,” set to be released on April 10, films inmates after Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins announces his plan to remove locks and officers to let the prisoners “be a community.” The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the experiment at the jail near Little Rock took place over two months last year and allowed inmates in one cell block to live without cell doors and move freely without any law enforcement.

The experiment and corresponding Netflix series was a mistake, Sanders told The Daily Wire.

“Turning our prisons into a free-for-all all reality show is dangerous and insulting to our brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to apprehend violent criminals,” Sanders said. “This is a reckless decision by the Pulaski County Sheriff and highlights the need for our new state prison to keep repeat violent offenders off our streets and our communities safe.”

The trailer shows inmates using drugs and making alcohol, while some insist they want things to go well so they can see their families again. Typically, a deputy is stationed inside the cell block and prisoners are kept in their cells for up to 23 hours a day. For the experiment, a deputy was stationed outside the cell block for safety.

The Gazette noted that the prison where the Netflix series was filmed already operated an open-plan arrangement in its A and B blocks, but the show follows its conversion of H block. After the experiment was over, Sheriff Higgins continued to operate H block in an open-plan fashion.

Before the experiment, only inmates who were designated as best behaved were allowed to live in the open-plan blocks, the Gazette reported. The experiment, however, included inmates who were not classified as well-behaved, and it appears some inmates had to be removed from the block during the experiment. The outlet noted that the inmates “who remained” at the end of filming were now considered best behaved.

While the trailer appears to show inmates with drugs, the Gazette reported that only one inmate was charged with allegedly possessing cocaine, but the charges were dropped after testing was revealed to be a false positive.

The series has created controversy throughout Arkansas. Democrat Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde and other court members are looking into Sheriff Higgins’ agreement with the film crew. Hyde said the agreement was illegal and that Higgins had no authority to make it, according to the Gazette.

The local Justice of the Peace, a Republican named Phil Stowers, told the outlet that deputies who were offered payment of $40 per hour to work during filming also may have violated the law.

Under Arkansas law, public servants are barred from receiving gifts and compensation other than their income and benefits from the government. Deputies can work off-duty jobs, but because they were paid to work their government jobs by the film producers, it could violate the law. These deputies were hired to provide “additional security” during the show’s production, the Gazette reported.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Sarah Sanders Sounds Off On Netflix Series That Turns Arkansas Jail Into A ‘Free For All Reality Show’