A retired lesbian cop goes to jail for “60 Days In”

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What’s it like in one of the country’s most notorious jails? Out lesbian and retired cop Tami is about to find out. On A&E’s new docudrama 60 Days In, eight people go into the Clark County Jail for two months, each motivated by different factors. For Tami, who grew up in the foster system, she wants to find out what it’s like for the people she’s grown up alongside and the people she’s arrested once they’re taken in by the justice system and put away.

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The individuals who are taking part in this social experiment vary in their stress levels before going in, but they go through very specific training so that they will survive inside. As a former policewoman, Tami is perhaps the most prepared. She’s spent a large part of her life dealing with criminals and knows how they talk and act, and perhaps more importantly, how they don’t talk and act. The last thing she wants to happen is that she’ll get made. Luckily she has her false identity and story down, and her butch bravado gives her a leg up with the other women.

Right away, Tami’s presence in the jail threatens cellmate Jennifer, who takes Tami’s shower shoes in an effort to push her buttons. While it might seem like a storyline right out of Orange is the New Black, these are real people and real situations with real consequences.

We spoke with Tami about how she got involved in the show and what she gleaned from the experience.

AfterEllen.com: How did the opportunity for this come to you, and what were your initial thoughts about participating?

Tami: I was contacted by one of the casting directors in regards to the show because of my background as a police officer. And believe it or not, when I heard about it, I adamantly refused. “This is not something I want to do.” Believe it or not! I know it sounds strange. But I sat on it for a week and the more I thought about it, the more I had some time to assess what in my life I needed to do to—that would help me be a positive participant for the show, and also how I could help the show. You know, I really wanted to go into this with such an open mind and walk away from it doing the best possible job that I could do.

 

AE: As a former cop, you obviously have a lot of training in going undercover, and we also see on the show that you get additional training before going inside. Was there anything else you did to prepare yourself?

Tami: I see a therapist here. It sounds strange to do, but we were concerned for me that there were gonna be some triggers in regards to my past history, but also there are things that on the job, as a police officer, that you take home with you at night. In 20 years time, you don’t sleep. You see horrible situations. Domestic violence; you see horrible situations with kids—young, young kids who never had a chance at life. And there were things—I said, “What are those possible scenarios that you are gonna face, and how are you going to combat those going in?” And also for me in my life, what is that I do to help myself relax in those situations? So a lot of mental preparation.

 

AE: We see that your wife isn’t the most thrilled about your doing this, but is supportive. How did she deal with this in the days leading up to your going in?

Tami: One of the biggest things I can totally commend her for is she never came right out and said, “Tami, I don’t want you to do this show.” I had so many questions I couldn’t answer for myself—things that had happened to me. Why did I go down this path? Why did I choose the life that I did? Why did I choose to go into law enforcement over taking the path that perhaps someone else would have—turned to drugs, turn to crimes, what have you. And she knew that I wanted to stay in this program to have those questions answered. So I think for her it was “Tami is going to come out,” if it was possible, a better person on the other side, and she really wanted that for me. She swallowed down so much, and I know it was difficult for her. There were a lot of tears in those last couple of days. And so many times where she looked at me and said, “I do not want you to go, but I cannot stop you. You’re gonna do what you want to do.” It was tough; it was really tough.

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