“60 Days In” is an American reality documentary series that finds its idea of entertainment in a curious premise. In short, the series invites volunteers onto the show to participate in the documentation of an outrageous social experiment.
Contestants who appear on the show are sent to prison under faked charges and an accompanying alias with a full back-story, where they spend 60 days, tasked with uncovering any bad behaviour among inmates and wardens alike.
Naturally, a show with such an entertaining but obviously dangerous premise would draw out questions from its audience, which the show has in ample supply. The series is already heading into its eighth season, with plenty of volunteers willing to participate. Known internationally as ‘The Jail: 60 Days In’, the documentary series airs in 100 countries, and thanks to popular reception, there seems to be no telling how far the producers, Lucky 8, are willing to push this social experiment.
Among the more concerning questions viewers raised across social media was in regards to the contestants’ safety, how real the documentary actually is, as well as inquiring about participants’ compensation. Considering how many people are willing to participate, the show must have adequate bait, but it seems that there are untold truths that Lucky 8 would hope to keep quiet.
Unfortunately, the death of a former contestant, Nate Burrel, brought viewers’ concerns into a more serious light, and as it would be, uncovering the truth behind “60 Days In” reveals realities about the series that some viewers might find heartening, even distressing. Though still an intriguing concept, all is not quite as the cameras portray.
What To Expect?
Searching for the truth surrounding the details of Nate Burrel’s death, we discuss in short the general premise and circumstance of “60 Days In”, before introducing Nate as a former contestant, revisiting his part in the series.
Following this, we dive a little deeper into the real colours of “60 Days In”, considering the accounts of former contestants and production crew members, and the secrets they reveal. The discussion will dwell in part on the contestants’ compensation, as well as the truthful setting of the show.
Then, we conclude by discussing the details surrounding Nate Burrel’s death, uncovering as much as possible about the allegations he faced shortly before he passed, and would include mention of the emotional last words he posted on Facebook.
60 Days Of Fame
The first season of “60 Days In” premiered in March 2016, with filming taking place in the Clark County Jail located in Jeffersonville, Indiana. As per the usual premise of each season, seven volunteers secretly infiltrated Clark County Jail following fake incarceration, and were sent to attempt to survive three months among the inmates.
Of course, each participant is carefully prepared and evaluated before being allowed to appear in the show due to the obvious dangers they might encounter while inside. Before their admittance into the correctional facility, participants are taught how to act and are thoroughly informed about the details surrounding their false identity, back story, and the fake criminal charges behind their incarceration.
Aside from already having to face the difficulties of confinement, isolation, and adjusting to the prison lifestyle, contestants are each given an individual task that may range from observing inmates, who they already have to contend with, to spying on the prison staff. According to the premise of the series, participants need to find evidence of any criminal or corrupt behaviour, while maintaining their undercover profile.
To make things especially difficult, and practical for the suggested purpose of the series, neither the inmates nor the prison staff are informed about the true nature of the documentation, thus requiring the volunteers to maintain their secret identity from everyone.
Since the first season aired, the series has experienced widespread popularity, and with the series airing in many different countries, it seems clear that the production company, Lucy 8, dove into a gold mine, as neither viewers nor volunteers seem to be in short supply.
However, because it would be difficult for the participants to keep their identity a secret for longer than required, the filming of later seasons moved to different facilities. The third and fourth season was filmed in Fulton County Jail, Atlanta, and the fifth season in the Pinal County Jail, Florence, Arizona.
In 2019, the series was renewed for a sixth season, and because the show is popularly received by its audience, a seventh season premiered in 2022. The series’ eighth season premiered in June 2023, and promises to keep viewers as entertained as before. The popular reception enjoyed by “60 Days In” also led to the creation of a spin-off series called “60 Days In: Narcoland”, the title explaining the tangent.
Certainly, regular viewers would have seen many faces come and go on “60 Days In”, as with each new season the contestants are replaced by new volunteers. While some quit early, and others endure the full three months, certain contestants decided to stay longer, even completing a second sentencing.
One such contestant was Nate Burrell, who appeared in two seasons of “60 Days In”. Nate formerly served in the US Marine Corps as an Infantryman from 2006 until his honourable discharge in 2013. Sadly, Nate passed away at his own hands in 2020, two years after competing in seasons three and four of “60 Days In”.
When Nate entered the social experiment of “60 Days In”, he was a proud veteran with two combat tours in Iraq to his credit, before serving three years as a reserve, hoping to join law enforcement following his retirement from the military. Subsequently, Nate studied criminal justice and law enforcement, earning his associate’s degree in 2014, and worked as a Fish and Wildlife officer.
During his first appearance in the third season of ‘60 Days In’ in 2017, Nate, an eager contestant, successfully completed the experiment, establishing a strong and trusted friendship with the inmates. So much so that he decided to stay for another three months. Nate served in Fulton County Jail and returned to the same facility for the fourth season of the documentary.
News alert I technically left the jail and went to the hospital where I was outside of the jail for a long period of time, and then returned to the jail… 😅🤣
— Nate Burrell (@nateaboy) May 6, 2020
The Untold Truth About “60 Days In”
Considering the danger of the show’s premise, one might question “60 Days In”, specifically about how they screen for capable volunteers, and if it’s the money that draws so many willing participants. No doubt the series is entertaining, and has given an insight to life behind bars in the US, but some viewers suspect the truthfulness of what the cameras present.
Undoubtedly, Lucky 8 would take as many precautions during filming as possible, including vigorously screening volunteers, however, applications are open to anybody. As such, according to executive producer Gregory Hans, there’s never a shortage of willing participants, and at times they interview up to 300 people a day.
Not everybody makes it onto the show, as they have to pass medical and background checks, despite the casual invitation presented to hopeful applicants. A standard casting call invites volunteers willing to experience a once-in-a-lifetime participation in a social experiment.
Candidates are required to email a brief essay on why they can survive any situation, along with personal details and insights into their personal backgrounds. From there, candidates are filtered and hopefuls are sent a questionnaire, followed by an online interview. Once they pass this, they have to complete a full medical examination.
Whether it’s worth participating in “60 Days In”, and passing the rigorous exams remains the question among viewers. Contestants do earn compensation for their participation, but according to a former producer, who chose to remain anonymous during a frank discussion on Reddit, the host network, A&E’s budget is not very inclusive. He suggested that volunteers can earn at most $3000 per episode, and personally considers that the compensation is not worth the risk.
However, it was leaked that the biggest money makers of “60 Days In” are the facilities chosen as the documentary’s setting – Clark County Jail made up to $500 a day over the course of the 60 days, which of course the Clark County Sheriff’s Department insists is put to use for buying new equipment, and training.
Whether one might consider it worth it or not, the authenticity of the show remains in question, and according to a former contestant, Rob Holcomb, who appeared in the first season, the editing is not quite truthful.
According to Holcomb, the show is edited to exaggerate the danger volunteers face, and admitted that the inmates uncovered his identity on his first day inside. As Rob stated, they treated him like gold, and he considers the inmates of Clark County Jail to be some of the nicest people he ever met.
Holcomb suggested, however, that the show portrayed the inmates as animals, and insinuated that they wished him harm, when in all honesty, Rob got along with them just fine. Holcomb also said that most members of Clark County Jail are just kind people with drug-related problems, not hardened criminals.
According to Alan Oliver, a police officer who appeared in the fourth season, his experience was completely different, his conscience causing him so much trauma that he couldn’t return to work. As Alan admitted, he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night thinking he arrested a petty criminal for possession of illegal narcotics, and sent them to a place like that.
Not everyone had a bad experience, but as far as the cameras show, the setting seems real enough to consider before just jumping in, but that’s not stopping volunteers from lining up, nor the producers from filming.
The Death Of Nate Burrell
It should be noted primarily, that Nate’s unfortunate suicide was unrelated to “60 Days In”, but the circumstances surrounding his death aren’t any less tragic. After Nate completed two seasons on the show, he continued his life, still hoping to join the police force. As Nate stated during his initial appearance in “60 Days In”, the show would give him the opportunity to interact and get to know the kind of people he would encounter in the line of duty; unfortunately, Nate didn’t become an officer of the law.
According to Burrell’s LinkedIn profile, following his appearance, Nate worked in several jobs, all seemingly unrelated to criminal justice. Nonetheless, Burrell’s life seemed content enough, as he also developed a romantic relationship in the years following, and was expecting to become the father of a boy shortly before his death. Needless to say, life seemed to be going well for Burrell in the wake of his experiences on ‘60 Days In’.
Then, in late 2020, Burrell’s sister, Chelsey Walker, confirmed his death to the public, which came as quite a shock to fans of both the series and Burrell. According to his sister, Nate fatally shot himself in the downtown area of Allegan, Michigan, taking his own life.
As Chelsey stated, she considered her brother as someone who loved his country, and his family, whom everyone knew as a kind and caring person. Walker admitted that Nate was in a dark place around the time of his passing, though assured the gossip outlets that it had nothing to do with his appearance on ‘60 Days In’. In fact, Chelsey stated that Nate was very proud of his accomplishments on the show.
Unfortunately, everything in Nate’s life was not quite as rosy as people might consider. Despite his sister’s account of his character, it came to light that in October earlier that year, Nate was charged with five counts of serious felonies, included sexual assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault with malicious intent. However, the victim remained anonymous, and the details concerning the investigation also remain obscure.
Burrell was set to appear in court on the 9 of November, but sadly never made it, deciding to take his own life. Before he died, Nate left an emotional post on Facebook, explaining his circumstances in what could be considered his last words. In it, Nate wrote that it was not the confession people would be looking for, but reads as a heartfelt message to his family. His wife, Jordan, also gained mention in the note, which listed at length the grievances the couple experienced. However, Nate insistently expressed his wishes that no one blames each other, writing that he was simply tired. He also wrote a message to his then-yet-to-be-born son, expressing his sorrow about not being there to watch him grow.
Nate was laid to rest at the age of 33, a proud veteran, and profound star from ‘60 Days In’.
If you, or anyone you know, are suffering from mental health problems, never be afraid to seek help, please call any available hotlines, or seek professional care. No one has to suffer alone.