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Lawmakers in Arkansas question the sheriff of Pulaski County regarding Netflix documentaries



Pulaski County, Arkansas – Legislators grilled Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins on Tuesday on how a Netflix series was able to film inside the county jail with little to no state oversight.

With over five million views since its April 10, 2024, Netflix debut of the docuseries Unlocked: A Jail Experiment has become one of the most popular.

Higgins gave some prisoners permission to have unlocked cell doors and reduced direct deputy surveillance during the eight-episode series.

“I want to humanize people,” Higgins said. “I want to empower people to have an impact on their culture, environment, and community. If you can do that on a micro level, in jail with people you don’t care about or didn’t initially care about, and if you take that with you when you go to the broader community, then maybe you realize that you are empowered, you can have a positive impact on your neighborhood, on your family.”

Inquiring about how and why Higgins consented to allow cameras inside the jail, a number of MPs addressed the Joint Performance Review Committee on Tuesday.

“I took action to ensure that we have a reentry program to help those who are booked into our facility to come out and be better individuals,” Higgins told members of the Joint Performance Review Committee.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang, a Republican, stated that he is not opposed to attempting novel approaches to reduce recidivism, including the sheriff’s reintegration program. However, he expressed his worry that it would be the main subject of a show and asked how it could still be regarded as an experiment if it was being recorded on camera.

“I think it’s an exploitation of your prisoners that you allowed a film crew to come in,” Dismang said.

Many inquired about the specifics of the contracts signed by county workers and the amount of money collected from the production business.

During the meeting on Tuesday, Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde was also questioned. He recently said that the county never signed a contract, returning a $60,000 cheque from the production business.

Hyde wrote to the production company of the television show Lucky 8. Hyde claimed in the letter that the funds were a “reimbursement” for the company’s jail filming.

He clarified that there was no contract with the company and that the county had not authorized the money. The money is currently being rejected because it is viewed as a donation.

Sheriff Higgins has been questioned further about the docuseries by the county attorney.


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