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Pulaski County sheriff answers questions on ‘Unlocked’ Netflix series



Little Rock, Arkansas – Tuesday’s Q&A session with Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins focused on the well-liked and contentious “Unlocked” television series, which was set in a Pulaski County jail.

In retrospect, Higgins stated that he would not have changed a thing regarding the April publication of “Unlocked: A Jail Experiment.” When responding to queries from media on Tuesday, Higgins did mention that there were lessons to be learned as a result.

He added that deputies learned how to make and conceal some contraband, such as tattoo ink produced from soot, and that video surveillance blind spots were found.

When the popular Netflix series first opened the cell doors to Detention Unit H and moved its deputies out of the room in the spring of 2023, it gave the public an intimate peek at the local jail.

“H unit is still operating with the door open. The only difference is we put the deputy back in the unit at the request of the detainees,” Higgins stated.

Eight weeks of video were condensed into roughly eight hours for the eight-episode documentary series. According to Higgins, the experiment’s effectiveness will be judged by how much better discipline and obedience it produces in comparison to other units. The H unit, according to Higgins, is the second safest block in the jail, right after the open-door voluntary reentry program.

Soon, a second “Unlocked” unit will open. In response to a question about why it has taken a year, Higgins said that personnel and jail population were the reason. In particular, bunks may need to be placed in the overcrowding detention center’s common area.

Following the completion of their training, the Q unit will begin the conversion process with the 18 new detention officers who graduated in May.

Compared to H unit’s maximum capacity of 46 inmates, Q unit will be able to accommodate up to 79.
In response to a question concerning the agreement that Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde declared unlawful, Higgins stated that he and Lucky 8 Productions had a “memorandum of understanding.” His worries about the document were that the production company knew the show’s goal and that the Sheriff’s Office could watch the video that had been captured.

“Which was to humanize people in the facility and help people understand you can transform a unit,” Higgins said.

A week earlier, during a legislative meeting, a few senators and members from the state asked why they were unaware of the docuseries until the trailer was released earlier this year.

The production company behind the experiment began discussions with the sheriff about it two years prior to it being filmed a year ago.

If it was such a success, why wasn’t it discussed more before it was made public, Higgins was asked. He declared that any public official was always welcome to come.

“Communication is a two-way street and there’s a lot of things that go on that I’m unaware of that impact the Sheriff’s office, but I’m not informed either,” Higgins said.

If Higgins was surprised by the $60,000 check that Judge Hyde returned to the production company, he was told about it, as was the sheriff who notified other county officials.

“Just when they (Lucky 8 Productions) sent the check because they had no obligation to do it,” Higgins said.

Higgins omitted a response to one query. It concerned a participating detainee’s case against Lucky 8 Productions and his agency. In the joint legislative hearing, the sheriff did clarify that all participants in the docuseries gave their consent.



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