Nine regular people went undercover at Fulton County Jail on the A&E show "60 Days In."
They found that guards and inmates have an adversarial relationship with each other — both are afraid the other is taking advantage of them.
Sometimes, that can lead to testy confrontations and scary moments.
Fulton County Jail, corrections officers and inmates are frequently at each other's throats." data-reactid="37">
In Atlanta's Fulton County Jail, corrections officers and inmates are frequently at each other's throats.
Inmates have everything from their recreation time to their medicine dosages carefully regulated by jail staff, and both parties are constantly wary of being taken advantage of by the other.
Nine ordinary people discovered just how taxing it can be on the on the A&E documentary series "60 Days In," which follows law-abiding citizens who voluntarily go to jail as undercover inmates to expose problems from within the system.
As chief jailer Col. Mark Adger explained, it's common for inmates to test new staff members by asking for small favors, like finding out when their court date is or when their section of the jail will be given recreation time. Although the favors seem benign, fulfilling them can distract staff from observing illegal activity happening in the cells, Adger said.
"A new hire, a detention officer or sheriff, might get caught up in those games due to lack of experience," Adger told Business Insider. "They find themselves running around trying to fill out requests, doing things for inmates, only to find out they're being played."
That distrust leads to an almost adversarial relationship between guards and inmates — a relationship that plays out on "60 Days In." In one episode, an undercover inmate named Emmanuel lashes out at corrections officers who are reluctant to help after he complains there was blood and mucus on the wall left from a previous inmate.
"Their relationship with inmates, it can be a pretty touchy one," Adger told Business Insider. "I think the main issue is the staff is always on alert of being scammed by an inmate or being played or manipulated by an inmate, regardless of the actual inmate's situation."
Emmanuel, a public health analyst from New Jersey, immediately got into a shouting match with the corrections officers, who he said would not have responded to calm reasoning.
"It's a common pattern with the COs that it takes challenging, just being belligerent, in order for them to give you respect," he said on the show. "It's sad. They'll respond to you cursing at them, you yelling at them, and honestly, that doesn't help the inmates that are in here when they go out, because they know they can just get something by just yelling."