The premise of 60 Days In sounds simple: Go undercover in a prison to find flaws in the management of the facility. However, the actual experience is anything but easy for the six participants selected by Sheriff Mark Lamb, who assigns each of the "lucky" people with a specific mission to complete.
So, it is no surprise that viewers of the A&E reality series really want to know how much these contestants make for seemingly giving up their freedom for two months. "They have to be getting paid for this," one fan tweeted before another added, "I bet they get paid good AF to be undercover."
How much do '60 Days In' contestants get paid?
It looks like these participants are not making as much as you'd think for taking part in the show. According to one former reality TV producer who shared some behind-the-scenes information on Reddit, A&E budgets for one-hour shows is estimated at $375,000 per episode, meaning that "the most they are getting paid about $3,000 per episode."
The big money-maker in the show is the actual facility where filming takes place. In an interview, Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel said he was going to use the $60,000 the Clark County jail received from A&E — about $500 per day over the course of 120 days — for training and equipment upgrades.
"[The money] will go to training and equipment actually for the jail, so anything that we do that can improve the jail operations," Sheriff Noel explained. The show also agreed to reimburse the county for the representative's base salary and overtime costs related to the filming of the show.
Do '60 Days In' contestants still get paid if they leave early?
Considering 60 days in the slammer is hard on anyone, especially for a rookie with no background in criminal shenanigans, it's expected that not all 60 Days In contestants will make it for the entirety of the two months behind bars.
According to Soap Dirt, if contestants tap out early, they get a small stipend for their time on camera, but not as much as a participant who makes it the whole time. Apparently, people close to the contestants (perhaps their immediate family members) may also receive a small stipend after said participants are released.
No exact number has been reported.
What do '60 Days In' casting calls look like?
An old casting call reveals what producers are looking for in participants in the "social experiment series."
"You'll spend approximately 60 days trying to simultaneously outwit and gain the trust of those around you," the listing read. "If you think you're up for this once in a lifetime opportunity, send a brief email explaining why you could survive in just about any setting, a little background on you, your career, adventures, and quick wits."
If selected, would-be prisoners are sent a questionnaire and are interviewed online.
Is '60 Days In' real?
The pay (or lack thereof) is not the only surprising element of 60 Days In. According to former Season 1 participant, Rob Holcomb, the show is edited to make it seem as if the undercover contestants are in more danger than they are. "The show was real, but the editing was fake," Rob told Radar Online. "The inmates figured me out in two hours and they treated me like gold. They were the nicest group of people I had been around my entire life.”
He continued, "They tried to make it look like I was going to be attacked. The show made inmates look like animals; in reality they were kind human beings suffering from drug problems."
For others, the show had a negative effect. Alan Oliver, a police officer who went undercover during the fourth season, was unable to return to work following his appearance on the show. "I couldn't go to bed at night knowing that if I stopped somebody with a little dime bag of weed, I were to arrest them and put them in a place like that — I wouldn't be able to live with myself," Alan explained.
However, none of that is not stopping people from lining up to compete. Executive producer Gregory Harris revealed there is never a shortage of people looking to spend 60 days behind bars. "One of the most surprising things was how many folks were willing to put aside their lives for two months to participate in a program like this," he told Buzzfeed. He then went on to explain how casting is a "massive, mostly unconventional effort" that requires interviewing more than 300 people, who then have to undergo rigorous background and medical checks.
"The sheriff knew going in that if he had seven [versions of the same person], he was not going to get a full perspective on what was happening inside from every possible angle," he added. "It's months upon months of work to get it to the place we got it to... but probably the most rigorous you will find in any television show."
Would you sign up? Season 7 of 60 Days In premieres on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, on A&E.