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5 most shocking moments from '60 Days In: The Jail'

Abner looks through the door of his cell
Image: Season five's Abner was the first participant who had ever served time for real: 60 Days In: The Jail

Every episode of 60 Days In serves up some startling and outright shocking moments, but here are five of the all-time jaw-droppers that had millions of viewers on the edge of their seats.

1. Willie gets shanked

Season six of 60 Days In saw former college football player Dennis go undercover to test his theory that jails are too soft and provide little more than extended vacations for criminals. What followed was the mother of all rude awakenings, as Dennis looked on in horror while a seemingly silly spat on a stairwell escalated into a stabbing.

One minute, inmates Willie and Versace were strutting around like rival playground bullies, with Willie roaring that he was a ‘warrior’ and Versace calling him a ‘shrimp’. The next minute, Versace had a shank in his hand, which he rapidly and repeatedly plunged into Willie’s back.

Luckily, they were just flesh wounds, but the sight of the two men staggering around splattered with blood was enough to make Dennis reevaluate his view of jail life: ‘That could have been me!’

2. Abner goes full gangster

Season five’s Abner was the first ever 60 Days In participant who’d actually done time for real. Having been a feared gang member, he had turned his life around and wanted to give back to society by going undercover to investigate gang activity in a jail.

This meant posing as a Chicano enforcer in the pod, but the lines soon began to blur when he spotted a fellow Chicano, Ikaika, fraternising with a white inmate. Suddenly, Abner went full gangster and told Ikaika he had to ‘pick a race’ and promised, ‘If I have to force or shank somebody, I’m gonna do it.’

Just to emphasise his point, he smacked Ikaika hard in the face, then had another prisoner give him a quick, efficient beating. It was a stark illustration of the effect that the show can have on some participants, with Abner admitting, ‘I think I’ve overstepped the boundaries of what I’ve previously seen on 60 Days In.’

3. Angele blows the whole season

When 60 Days In participant Angele fell head over heels for inmate Gabrielle, they made no secret of their romance – and even created a ‘tent’ on their bunk using blankets so they could have sex. The showrunners were a bit flummoxed at this breach of protocol but allowed Angele to continue doing her thing… until she decided to confess to Gabrielle that she was undercover.

Fellow participant Stephanie, who was in the same pod, was stunned when Gabrielle told her. ‘My whole body went into shock,’ Stephanie said to the camera. ‘I was literally shaking. Why the f*** would you tell somebody that? How could you be that dumb?’

Producers felt much the same and yanked Angele from the pod to tell her that because she had endangered the safety of the other participants, the whole season had to be brought to a premature end. As one wry online commentator put it, ‘Angele treated this like it was 90 Day Fiancé, not 60 Days In.’

4. Robert gets put in solitary confinement

The very first season of 60 Days In gave us the participant who is still the most notorious and controversial: Robert Holcomb. A teacher on the outside, his strangely smug demeanour and general ‘weird vibes’ triggered lots of viewer debate online. It also didn’t help when he decided to do the one thing no inmates ever do and tamper with the pod’s CCTV.

Robert was apparently worried that inmates thought he was an undercover cop, so to curry favour and prove his bad boy credentials, he wrapped his towel around a security camera. Inmates looked on in disbelief, knowing the severe consequences of this egregious breach.

Sure enough, Robert was immediately cuffed and carted off to solitary, where he spent 30 days of his allotted time on the show. His reaction was to smirk, shrug and say, ‘I feel good about it’.

An officer was less nonchalant, saying, ‘All these inmates have been told, do not touch these cameras, there are huge repercussions. The last person I thought would tamper with one of the cameras was one of our participants. I knew we had to worry about 500 inmates, I didn’t think we’d have to worry about our participants.’

5. Ashley is left naked in her cell

Season six saw police officer Ashley experience the other side of the judicial system and it certainly left a sour taste when she found herself naked in a cell. She’d been told to leave her clothes out for the laundry by an officer, Ms Williams, who then locked the cell door and settled down to eat dinner, apparently forgetting all about her naked prisoner.

A horrified Ashley yelled through the locked door to no avail. Her cellmate was luckily able to lend her a top, but Ashley was still left with nothing on below the waist, wondering if she’d have to greet fellow inmates the next morning with, ‘Here’s my vagina everyone. Please enjoy it.’

It was all the more distressing because she knew it was around the time of her period: ‘I guess I’ll just free bleed all the way down to my ankles whenever my time comes.’

Ashley filed a grievance against the officer and the stubborn, indignant Ms Williams walked off the pod in a huff the next day. The whole incident highlighted the casually dehumanising indignities that inmates at the jailhouse were being subjected to – the very sort of thing 60 Days In was always intended to expose.