RICHMOND, Va. - The West Virginia filmmaker who chronicled his decline during a steady diet of fast food in the superpopular documentary "Super Size Me," spent 24 days behind bars for another video report - and discovered, he said, that inmates are not all bad guys.
Morgan Spurlock checked into the Henrico County Jail in February and left with some shattered stereotypes.
"One of them is that you imagine jail, and prison, being filled with all these bad guys," Spurlock told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "And I'll be the first person to say there's people that are locked up who should be locked up. But at the same time, I think there's a lot of good, honest, genuine people in there who made a mistake... "
Spurlock's experience will air July 26 on the FX network, launching the second season of his "30 Days" documentary series.
Spurlock said he chose the suburban Richmond jail after reading an article about Sheriff Mike Wade and a drug-rehabilitation program his department started.
"Henrico is one of the few places that recognizes that just punishing somebody for being a drug offender isn't enough," Spurlock said.
An agreement was signed, and Spurlock was processed at Henrico's Jail West on Feb. 8, after he was "sentenced" to 30 days in jail for a phony contempt-of-court charge. The show's production company paid for the cost of the incarceration.
Wade said Monday that prisoners were told Spurlock was the focus of a documentary but was not identified as the filmmaker.
"He lived in a cell like everybody else," Wade said. "We treated him just like an inmate."
The county jail system includes approximately 1,200 prisoners accused of offenses ranging from drug counts to murder.
"Of course he didn't stay with any of the capital murderers," Wade said, adding, however, that Spurlock did spend 72 hours in solitary confinement.
Many of the inmates took to Spurlock, after some initial skepticism.
"There were some people here that kind of doubted his sincerity on why he was here, but he dealt with that, he got over it pretty quickly," inmate Wesley Stanbach said.
He went to church, tutored inmates, worked 15-hour shifts in the kitchen and eventually made it to the trustee dayroom.
"I think Morgan was a great guy," Stanbach said. "I consider him a friend."
Spurlock also got to know 25-year-old Michael "Travis" Ramsey of Highland Springs, who was filmed going through heroin withdrawal during Spurlock's stay. "He definitely showed concern for my well-being," said Ramsey, who shared a cell with Spurlock.
Wade said Spurlock did not "serve" his full 30 days because he was satisfied with the footage he had over 24 days.
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