Did Netflix pay the inmates for Unlocked: A Jail Experiment? Explored

Still from the trailer (Image via netflix.com)
Still from the trailer (Image via netflix.com)

Yes, Netflix's reality documentary series Unlocked: A Jail Experiment did pay the inmates who participated in the show. The controversial series was released on April 10, 2024, and presented a bold experiment in the Pulaski County Regional Detention facility, where the inmates were left unlocked within the facility for six weeks.

Unlocked: A Jail Experiment, since its release has been surrounded with various types of controversies. While some of the Arkansas state and local officials deemed the series and its manner of experimentation recless and dangerous, fans enjoyed the show and kept it on the number one spot on Netflix for several weeks.

The divisive nature of the show has also left it in legal troubles, as the County Judge Barry Hyde has questioned the methods that went into making the docuseries, which might have bypassed the legal protocols. This issue has also taken the matter of 'paying the inmates' under its roof.


The inmates in Unlocked: A Jail Experiment made a tiny bit of money

Still from the series (Image via netflix.com)
Still from the series (Image via netflix.com)

The inmates that participated in Unlocked: A Jail Experiment, were paid a sum of $75 by the production agency, Lucky 8 Productions.

This was reported by The Arkansas Democrat Gazzette, who also reported that the money could be used to purchase snacks and other items from the prison commissary.

Throughout Unlocked: A Jail Experiment, viewers are invited to witness the raw and unfiltered reality of prison life as experienced by the volunteers. From navigating power dynamics among fellow inmates to coping with isolation and the constant threat of violence, each episode offers a candid portrayal of the physical and emotional toll of incarceration.

The series primarily focused on five inmates, Chauncey Young, Randy Randall, Raymong 'AJ' Lovett, Krisna Pero 'Tiny' Clarke and John 'Eastside' McAllister. Apart from them, many other inmates faced the camera of this controlled experiment. The show unlocked their doors for six weeks, a reversal of the previous policy in which they were locked up in cells 23 hours a day.

Apart from the inmates, the Lucky 8 provided $1000 per day, from the start to each day of their shoot, culminating a total sum of $60,000. Sheriff Higgins has said that the check has not been transferred to him yet. But when it does, the amount would be donated to the County office.


Money made from Unlocked: A Jail Experiment is in legal troubles?

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Pulaski County officials are at odds over several elements of the show. There's a contention between the nature of the contract of the series between the County Prison Sheriff Eric Higgins and the Judge Barry Hyde.

According to Judge Hyde, Sheriff Eric Higgins has overstepped his legal jurisdiction by signing the contact with Lucky 8 Production company and issuing them the permission to make the series. According to him, only a judge has the authority to sign those contracts.

Sheriff Eric Higgins, meanwhile, has conveyed that Unlocked: A Jail Experiment does not involve any kind of contract. He only allowed the crew to film inside the prison, with a memorandum of understanding. Lucky 8 Productions also released a statement conveying their side of the story.

When the story initially surfaced, Higgins claimed that Lucky 8 TV only made payments of $1,000 per filming day to Pulaski County to cover expenses.

However, on February 22, 2023, Lieutenant Denise Atwood sent a memo to jail staff, asking for extra deputies, sergeants or lieutenants to ensure security during filming. The memo stated that volunteers would receive $40 per hour from Lucky 8 TV.


Though Unlocked: A Jail Experiment has turned out to be a controversial show for all the legal troubles that its release has stirred, it cannot be denied that the series raises some important questions about the failings of the American incarceration system.

Unlike traditional reality shows, which often sensationalize or distort reality for entertainment purposes, Unlocked: A Jail Experiment strives to provide a genuine and educational experience.

The documentary series is available to stream on Netflix.

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