Inmate ‘Eastside’ from hit Netflix jail experiment series dies aged 29


An inmate who appeared on Netflix’s experimental prison series Unlocked: A Jail Experiment has died aged 29.

John McAllister – known as ‘Eastside’ on the docuseries – was found unresponsive in his bunk on the morning of Sunday, 2 June, with authorities confirming the news to local Arkansas TV station KATV.

KATV reports that McAllister was transported to Jefferson Regional Medical Centre in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, US, where he was subsequently pronounced dead at 8:50 am.

No foul play or suicide is suspected.

McAllister had been incarcerated at Williams Correctional Facility in Pine Bluff after being convicted of ten felony counts related to drugs, breaking and entering, theft of property, and firearms possession.

He was given a three-year sentence last year after pleading guilty.

McAllister had previously been incarcerated 14 times, with offences stretching back to when he was 19-years-old.

Following his incarceration at Williams Correctional Facility, he had been working as the prison tattoo artist and would regularly ink his fellow inmates.

But McAllister had found fame as one of the inmates featured on the Netflix docuseries Unlocked: A Jail Experiment, which explored giving inmates in a prison more autonomy and control over their day-to-day lives.

Premiering back in April, the eight-part series followed the lives of several inmates at the Pulaski County Regional Detention facility and explored whether or not prisoners could be trusted to govern themselves without guards.

Reflecting on his criminal past on the series, McAllister said that breaking the law had given him an ‘adrenaline’ rush.

“All I’ve been around is criminals… I love that adrenaline rush high, knowing you could get caught,” he said.

Speaking about his vision for the show in an interview with Netflix’s Tudum ahead of its release, Arkansas sheriff Eric Higgins revealed his bold vision for the series.

Explaining that the goal of the series was to see if less control in jails would allow for inmates to create their own structure and community within the overstretched US prison system, Higgins said he hoped the move would ’empower’ the inmates to behave better.

“We thought, ‘What can we do to create some ownership for those detainees in that unit? How do we make the facility safer, and what can we do to still hold them accountable but empower them at the same time?’'” he said.

The experiment didn’t run without problems between the inmates – as viewers will be well aware – however Higgins believed it had made a beneficial impact on the inmates, telling Forbes that ‘behaviour is better, it was safer, and the facility was cleaner, because they took ownership’.

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