'60 Days In' EP Greg Henry on Why Season 5's Jail Was 'One of the Toughest' Yet

Meaghan Darwish
Exclusive A&E

For most people, ending up in prison is a worst-case scenario. But in A&E's hit reality series 60 Days In, there are some who actually volunteer to go behind bars.

These volunteers are part of a program that works to help law enforcement to improve their correctional facilities. They enter the prisons for 60 days without staff or inmates knowing their true identity. And in Season 5, the show will follow volunteers at Arizona's Pinal County facility, where gang activity runs rampant.

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The hit docuseries puts its audience to the task.

"Every participant had to navigate a world where affiliation and race dictated the rules of engagement — something few of them had ever experienced," says the show's executive producer and Lucky 8 co-president Greg Henry. What's different from past seasons, Henry says, is that volunteers were given "specific missions" for what they were looking to accomplish on the inside.

It is a season of many firsts as Henry elaborates "this is the first time we had our participants meet each other before going in, which added another level of pressure and commitment for them to obtain valuable info for jail officials."

And it isn't always easy watching from the sidelines, especially since "this jail was one of the toughest we’ve ever been in because of the gang presence," adds Henry. "Our incredible team is along for the ride with our participants day in and day out, and we all experience the highs and lows with them."

So what makes this season one of the most explosive to date? Henry says that some participants "came very close to blowing the whole project out of the water."

But even with those close calls, this show continues to create positive change for the criminal justice system, as Henry explains, "The common denominator every season is that those who live, work and are incarcerated in the community see their jail in a whole new light." And that's certainly shaping up to be the case for Arizona's Pinal County.

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Below, we have your exclusive first look at the new season with a clip featuring the volunteers' introduction to to each other and the task at hand.

60 Days In, Season 5 Premiere, Thursday, January 3, 10/9c, A&E