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Arkansas Netflix jail docuseries star inmate passes away

John “Eastside” McCallister, an inmate featured in the popular Pulaski County Jail Netflix series “Unlocked: A Jail Experiment” has died, according to authorities. McCallister was at a prison in Pine Bluff before his death. Authorities said that there’s no suspected foul play involved and suicide has been ruled out as a cause of death. He was initially taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. McCallister was one of the inmates featured in the highly talked about Netflix series, “Unlocked: A Jail Experiment.” The Arkansas-based docuseries premiered in April and was the number one series on the platform at the time of its release. Since then, Unlocked has received both praise and backlash from viewers that consist of everyone from former inmates to local state politicians.

In 2023, the film company Lucky 8 documented 46 inmates in an experiment. During this experiment, the inmates were unguarded in an attempt to see if they could manage themselves. While some view the experiment as one that could be beneficial, questions of legality began to arise prior to the docuseries’ premiere after Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde shared that he never signed off on the project and found out about its existence when Netflix released the trailer. Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins held a press conference in May where he addressed several concerns he’d heard from the public regarding the Netflix docuseries. Some of those concerns consisted of overall safety, ethics, and money received from Lucky 8 after filming. Higgins said that they returned the money they received from the company and also said that the experiment was a success when asked how he felt about the series’ outcome.

The results of the experiment continue to live on despite the conclusion of filming, as the jail continues to have open doors in its H Unit where filming took place. The only thing that has changed is a deputy is in the pod. “If the tablets aren’t working right, if the phones aren’t working, or a code isn’t working, or if they have questions about their case, they can ask the deputy about information,” Higgins said. Higgins is now expanding this experiment to another unit that is twice as big as the H Unit.