Unlocked: A Jail Experiment

Is ‘Unlocked: A Jail Experiment’ Real? Explained

Netflix’s Unlocked: A Jail Experiment has been a controversial addition to the streaming website’s catalog, following Pulaski County Quorum’s investigation into the county sheriff’s decision to film the reality series inside a real prison.

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Fans are unsure about whether the show is based on real events, and to answer that, yes, Unlocked: A Jail Experiment is a real-life experiment that was conducted in the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility in Little Rock, Arkansas. The unscripted series was masterminded by County Sheriff Eric Higgins, and it involves the inmates being given freedom to conduct themselves as they please inside the jail with no supervision, the objective supposedly being to encourage community-fostering behavior and avoid future violations when inmates are released.

The show uses interviews and footage to document the lives of 46 inmates over six weeks and eight episodes. Although the prisoners do have unprecedented freedom, it is not “lock free” or “officers-free” as advertised. There are officers in the facility who are stationed a few feet away from two secured doors, and “no locks” simply means that inmates’ cells are open within the locked doors of the prison. This was confirmed by the sheriff in his response to the court’s queries.

The execution of the experiment has been done within a systematic framework, ensuring that inmates who exhibit improved behavior are rewarded with more perks. The detainees involved in the project were told about what to expect and that they would be recorded, with the assurance that they could quit the show at any point.

Despite those assurances, there have been plenty of negative reactions to Unlocked: A Jail Experiment. Despite the project’s positive stated goals, there are many ethical issues that arise in turning it into a commercial TV show. The show has also been deemed “reckless,” and it remains to be seen whether the controversy will prevent future similar series or if this is just the beginning of a trend.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Evan Tiwari
Evan is a staff writer at The Mary Sue, contributing to multiple sections, including but not limited to movies, TV shows, gaming, and music. He brings in more than five years of experience in the content and media industry, both as a manager and a writer. Outside his working hours, you can either catch him at a soccer game or dish out hot takes on his Twitter account.