Eric Higgins: Where is the Unlocked A Jail Experiment Sheriff Now?

Netflix’s ‘Unlocked: A Jail Experiment’ has captivated many eyes thanks to its highly unique concept. The show follows the execution of an idea created by Sheriff Eric Higgins, who wants to see if he might be able to better the living conditions and mental health of those who live under him. Given the many ups and downs, Eric remained cautiously hopeful about the end results while pushing for the continuation of the experiment throughout the intended duration. In many ways, the results of the whole experiment can be linked to the man who started it all.

Eric Higgins Put Everything on the Line For an Idea

When it comes to his career in law enforcement, Eric Higgins has been active for a long time. He got his Bachelor of Science degree in Multidisciplinary Studies with a focus on Government and Business. This was followed by him acquiring a Master of Arts degree in Human Services for Executive Leadership and Counseling from Liberty University. Eric started working for the Police Department of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1984. For about three decades, he continued to work hard and rose through the ranks at an impressive rate. In fact, when he retired in 2015, he was an Assistant Chief of Police.

As a police officer, Eric was a champion for several programs that might help those in need when it comes to a life related to crime in any form. He actually brought back the Police/Youth Live-In Camp while he was still a part of the force, and the program continues to exist even today. He also extended a hand toward the African American community through the Our Kids/O.K. Program that focused on providing guidance to the young members of the community in Little Rock. Additionally, Eric is a seasoned teacher, having taught classes at Arkansas Baptist College, Shorter College, and the re-entry program called Exodus – Out for Life.

Eric’s time as the Sheriff of Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office began on January 1, 2019, when he was elected by the locals for the position, an honor for which he has expressed much appreciation. This also made him in charge of the Pulaski County Detention Facility. The election marked the first time an African American person had held the office since its inception over two centuries ago. Owing to his stellar work, Eric was re-elected into office during the 2022 elections. It was during his second term that Eric decided to implement the idea that’s explored in the Netflix show. The residents of the H-Unit were felons, with many of them having been in and out of legal custody many times in their lives.

As per the norm, the residents of the units had to stay in their locked cells for 23 hours a day, with the remaining hour available to them for socializing. This system is often referred to as “23 and 1” in the show. For Eric, the existing system certainly seemed like one that could be improved upon. He explained how being locked in for so many hours can often be detrimental to the mental health of the residents, which only leads to increased frustrations and violent incidents. As such, he decided to implement a program where the detained individuals would have their cell doors open almost all the time for a duration of six weeks.

During the experiment, the residents had the freedom to explore the premises of their unit without the constant presence of a Deputy Officer. While surveillance continued to ensure no blatant rule breaks took place, those within the unit were allowed to do as they pleased for the most part. As the experiment went on, Eric hoped that the experiment would not lead to any incident that might put a permanent stop to the reform and tarnish his name, as he had been championing this cause for a very long time.

Eric Higgins is Happily Married and Has Two Kids

Thanks to ‘Unlocked: A Jail Experiment,’ Eric Higgins has gained much renown, though not without some apparent trouble. Around mid-March 2024, when the trailer for the show was released, he came under fire for his decision to allow the experiment to be filmed for a television program. On March 26, 2024, the Pulaski County Quorum Court requested him to answer a few questions regarding the projects. The court stated that they had been unaware that such a thing was happening. The key issue that they had with Eric seemed not that he had conducted such an experiment, as it was certainly under his authority to do so.

However, the fact that he had allowed it to be filmed for television without notifying the court about the details of the filming certainly did not sit well with them. Hence, he was given until April 3, 2024, to answer the questions. As for Eric’s take on the show, he has been more than open about his enthusiasm for the same. “This series explores the challenges faced by jails and prisons, such as low staffing, overcrowding, and the negative stigma,” he told People. “Despite these difficulties, my team and I are working on new ways to improve our facility in order to create a safer environment for our employees and help those in our care through responsibility and accountability.”

Eric added, “Did we face obstacles? YES! However, I believe this journey will not only change the lives of the individuals involved but also challenge society’s views on incarceration and rehabilitation.” Apart from his stellar and innovative work as a part of the law enforcement for Arkansas, Eric is dedicated to the betterment of society. He is part of the Volunteers in Public Schools (ViPS) Board and Lisa Academy’s Governing Board. On a more personal note, he has been married to Caron Bunting since March 9, 1991. As of writing, the pair has completed over 33 years of togetherness and certainly are blissful and content about the same. Apart from their rock-solid relationship, they have two beautiful daughters — Janay and Jessica — whom they adore and cherish.

Read More: Unlocked A Jail Experiment: Where is it Filmed? Where Does it Take Place?