Moments into Monalisa Johnson’s stint at Clark County Jail, in Jeffersonville, Indiana, one thing immediately stuck out to her.
It was one of the filthiest places she had ever been.
“I’d never seen anything like it,” Johnson told Business Insider. “There was mould growing, gnats flying up out of drains. Black mould, green mould, every kind of thing you can think of was growing around the showers and in the toilets and the sinks.”
Johnson was a participant on the documentary series “60 Days In,” whose second season premieres Thursday on A&E. The show follows eight volunteers who go undercover as inmates for two months in order to expose problems within the system.
The participants — none of whom have criminal records — were booked under false names and fake charges during their stays. Corrections officers were not made aware of the undercover program until filming was complete.
Upon arrival, Monalisa questioned whether the bunk beds in the women’s pod or her jail-issued sleeping mat had ever been cleaned.
“That was like some stuff that you would see in a foreign country,” she told the cameras in one episode. “I would have never expected American jails to look like that from the inside.”
It was clear the conditions took a psychological toll on her fellow inmates, according to Johnson.
“When you’re de-cluttered and things are clean, you tend to focus better and accomplish more,” she said. “When they come in there and see it that way, they automatically just drop to a sense of hopelessness. Even if they know they’re going to get out, it still feels likes a hopeless environment.”
About 30% of US jail inmates and 23% of state prisoners show symptoms of major depression, according to a 2006 Justice Department report. Several participants from the show’s first season said they felt depressed during their time in jail, thanks in part to the drab surroundings, lack of daily structure, and stomach-turning food.
“What I learned the most was that those are humans that are inside of there,” Johnson. “They deserve to have human rights … and their rights are being violated.”
The season premiere of “60 Days In” airs Thursday on A&E at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
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