What's going on behind the scenes at your local jail

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Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 11:00 pm | Updated: 6:44 pm, Tue Jul 22, 2014.

MADISON COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) -- "Orange is the New Black" is a Netflix original series about life inside a women's federal prison. In its debut, the show had more viewers and hours watched than other Netflix powerhouses "Arrested Development" and "House of Cards."

So just how real is it? WTXL ABC 27's Kellie Bartoli headed to the Madison County Jail to see how it compares.

If life imitates art, "Orange is the New Black" could be what's pulling all the strings.

The hugely popular Netlix original series is based on a true story of one woman's year behind bars, and it doesn't hold back - from an inmate death and even a guard having sex with a prisoner... all dramatized for Hollywood, right?

But in the past few weeks alone, an inmate at the Lowndes County Jail was found dead in his cell, Decatur County prison supervisor Latoya Biggles was charged with sexual assault for relationships with inmates, and former Tallahassee Federal Correctional Officer Angel Santiago pleaded guilty to sex with a prisoner.

 At the Madison County Jail, Sheriff Ben Stewart says the most common problem is contraband, with officers finding illegal drugs or small weapons about once a month.

"It creates a need or a want by these guys and they do whatever they can to get it," he said.

In Madison County when someone is arrested, an officer takes them through this door and they can't cross a red line into the jail until another officer searches them.

Sheriff Stewart says that's where a lot of the contraband comes in to the 120-inmate jail.

"It's like they've been arrested and they have drugs or maybe a razor in their pocket and they don't want to say anything about it because they think it'll be another charge," explains Sheriff Stewart.

But accident or not, crossing this line with those illegal items equals a felony.

In the big house on the big screen, the kitchen is the center of smuggling. For most county jails though, that danger is eliminated because all the meals are brought in prepared.

As for prison gangs and jailhouse fights, Madison County convicts typically aren't behind these bars long enough for that to be a problem.

But - when it comes to federal facilities like the show portrays: "They have to deal with it on a different level because the inmates there....if someone's going be there 10, 20 years, they'll go to great lengths to try to get some type of contraband in," said Sheriff Stewart. "Whereas a county jail, it's such a temporary situation...usually they don't get that desperate."

Still though, these real-life guards are always on the lookout.

"When they're in our jail, they're our responsibility," said Sheriff Stewart.

We also checked in with the Florida Department of Corrections, where officials tell us the most common contraband includes marijuana and narcotics, cell phones, money and "fabricated weapons" -- like shanks. Officers there find these items often, mainly thanks to random searches.

If an inmate is found with contraband, they can lose prison privileges, plus an additional felony charge, which can come with another five-year sentence and $5,000 in fines.

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