IF YOU WERE jailed for 60 days as an experiment, what would you want to know?
Monalisa Johnson is a 49-year-old mother who signed up for the experiment, which will be documented in the highly successful 60 Days In Season 2. Her reason? Monalisa has a daughter serving a 10-year mandatory prison sentence and she hopes to walk in the same shoes to understand what her daughter is going through.
Foxtel Insider caught up with Monalisa about her time behind bars in a bid to expose the internal issues of the facility’s corrupt history.
Insider: What do you say to people that tell you how crazy you are?
Monalisa: It is a crazy notion isn’t it? but a lot of the decisions I made were because of my daughter and her 10-year mandatory sentence, which in the US means she cannot seek parole.
Insider: What were learnings from her?
Monalisa: She would talk about the conditions that she was in and we would think that she was whining or exaggerating, but it turns out those things were true. So to go through it for myself and realise that I couldn’t do anything either was a real eye-opener for me and to see the truth.
Insider: You were selected to take part in the experiment, because of your involvement in Parents with Incarcerated Children program. Was the sacrifice worth the support for this foundation?
Monalisa: I started the Parents with Incarcerated Children because at the time, I had no other place to go to get resources about what I was going through emotionally and financially. I certainly didn’t know what to do legally.
Doing this, I was able to say to parents, not only do I understand the pain that you are going through, but by entering into where these children have been incarcerated, I now know what it feels like and know what it’s like on both sides of the fence. I got to see what’s true and what’s not.
Insider: How blind is society to what’s actually going on inside?
Monalisa: I didn’t have a lot of faith in the system because of what I was seeing going on with lots of people, not just with my daughter. There’s clearly a problem going on. My faith started to increase with the sheriff on the show for 60 Days In. I could see that he was really serious about this and making some changes, which he did. But I’m still wary across the board.
Insider: Were you ever fearful of your safety inside prison?
Monalisa: Oh my God, yes. When I first got in, I was taken to what is called the drunk tank, which is a holding cell you’re put in before you go into General Population. While I was in there I saw women detoxing off of substances and I had no idea what was going on. So I’m scared, thinking are they going to attack me? Is there something wrong? And we’re in this dirty, nasty conditions, I was terrified that I was going to get a disease.
INSIDER: Did you ever have a sense of ‘personal space’ inside?
Monalisa: I don’t think there was any such thing as personal space. There were four bunks with four women. And there was one toilet, one shower. No matter what you did, you had to watch with every fibre of your body what was going on around you.
Want more? For our full interview with Monalisa’s, head to Foxtel Insider!