3 important lessons from Unlocked: A Jail Experiment on Netflix

Article written by
Evie Grabowiecki
April 25, 2024

The experiment proposed by Sherriff Eric Higgins kept the cell doors open for people incarcerated in a US facility with minimal supervision.

The men at Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility in Little Rock, Arkansas, US were previously left in their cell for 23 hours a day.

This series is a reminder of how addressing the root cause of crime is more effective than quick-fix punishments like leaving people in solitary confinement.

1. Holding people accountable motivates them to be accountable

Countries with prisons that share responsibility with people incarcerated experience lower reoffending rates.

Treating people like they can't be trusted removes empowerment to develop the skills to be accountable for their actions.

For some, this might be the first environment they can learn this.

2. Positive incentives encourage good behaviour more than punishment

People felt motivated to maintain good behaviour to access the free phone calls and to spend more time outside of their cells.

It’s common to read stories from people rehabilitated who say they didn’t fear prison time.

The focus needs to shift to helping people access the support they need to feel they can make a valuable contribution to society.

3. Contact with people outside of prison is crucial

People who felt isolated struggled more with mental health and seeing life beyond prison.

Contact with loved ones helps people reintegrate into society. Spending long periods of time isolated can have negative long-term impacts.

This makes it harder for people to break the cycle and avoid re-entering prison.

Contact with loved ones shouldn’t be something only people with money can access.

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