Home » Sheriff reveals why he opened jail to hit TV series; volunteer inmate shares ‘hardest part’ of lockup

Sheriff reveals why he opened jail to hit TV series; volunteer inmate shares ‘hardest part’ of lockup

by John Jefferson
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A Texas woman voluntarily went behind bars in the Utah County Jail under the leadership of Sheriff Mike Smith to participate in a television show that shed light on the reality of prison.

Utah County Sheriff Smith shared with Fox News Digital that he first turned down the opportunity to be the subject of A&E’s hit show, “60 Days In,” but shifted his perspective after he realized the opportunity the show presented.

“What it came down to for me is that I looked at it as an audit,” he said. “I looked at it as an opportunity to do the most in-depth audit that has ever been performed in this office.

“I feel like the opportunity to go through this process outweighed whatever embarrassment that may come.”


Smith said people in Utah County should expect law enforcement to improve.

“I hope, at the end of the day, that people don’t expect us to be perfect, but they should expect us to be willing to accept where we need to improve and improve,” he said.

“People don’t expect us to be perfect, but they should expect us to be willing to accept where we need to improve and improve.” 

Smith said he hoped the seven participants in the show would shed light on any drug, contraband and gang activity in the jail.

“A lot of our inmates are in for drug charges, and I hope that we can keep them off drugs during the time they are in there,” he said. “We have programs in place to help them, but I don’t think those programs stand a chance of seeping in if they are not clean.”

Utah County Jail inmate escorted down hallway

Sheriff Smith said his team is always working to improve, but the show also uncovered issues they are now working to address.

“There were things that came up that were surprising to me. Some of it came down to how some of my employees were treating inmates and some of those interactions,” he said.

“I struggled watching that on screen. That is not what I teach them and not what I expect.”

Sheriff Mike Smith stands outside with arms crossed

Sheriff Smith said he wants viewers of the reality show not to romanticize life being locked up. 

“At the end of the day, it’s jail,” he said. “And I sometimes think that you hear a lot of complaining, but, at the end of the day, this is jail.


“And I want people to be treated properly in jail. But it is jail, and jail is a punishment because you’ve broken the law. It is not a country club or a place that you go to get away from the world.

“Jail is not somewhere you want to be. It is not the avenue you want to take.”


Nina – Participant of A&E’s ‘60 Days In’

Nina, who was one of the seven participants in “60 Days In,” discussed with Fox News Digital her voluntary lockup in the Utah County Security Center and what prompted her to go undercover.

“I’m an eternal learner and anthropologist. I love mission work. And I love humanity. And I’m a Christian,” Nina said. “I felt chosen for it, honestly.”

Nina, who is a bondsman in Texas, shared that everything she’s done prepared her for the reality television series.

“The things that I thought were going to be hard turned out to not be the hardest,” she said. “There are just some things that you cannot anticipate.”

Nina stands against jail wall for 60 Days In

The “60 Days In” participant said the hardest part of being locked up was the “deprivation of everything” and ultimate “boredom.”

“You don’t know how you’re going to react until you’re in there,” she said. “Until you’re treated like an inmate and being deprived like an inmate, you don’t know what it is like.”


Nina likened her experience to a significantly worse version of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

“You imagine the basics before you go in,” she said. “Think about COVID and how crazy we all went, and that’s with luxuries like your phones and the ability to communicate.”

She said she was grateful for her freedom after her voluntary lockup.

“It made me think of how lucky I am,” she said.

Utah County Security Center sign

Nina shared how her perspective changed about the criminal justice system in the U.S.

“I believe in consequences. I believe that you reap what you sow. I’ve always believed in that,” she said. “It’s easy to categorize them and wash your hands of them. The truth is that we are asking too much of a broken demographic.

“We are just beginning to talk about how we are treating our inmate population and how it is working. And we’re learning that it is not working.”

Nina said, following the show, she plans on compiling literature for inmates to read and pursue additional programming in her county’s jails.

Inmate in prison cell


The reality show follows seven participants as they voluntarily go undercover in the Utah County Jail to shed light on drugs, contraband and gang activity.

Utah County is the state’s second-most populous county. The county’s largest city is Provo.

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