Get Ready for Southern Justice

Sullivan County, TN is known as the birthplace of country music and the home of NASCAR’s Bristol Motor Speedway races. 70 miles east, Ashe County, NC is best known for its Christmas trees, where tens of thousands of trees grow on hillsides and make their way to living rooms across the nation every winter. Both counties are located in the Blue Grass Mountains of Appalachia, with Sullivan in the foothills and Ashe at elevations as high as 4000 feet.

While both counties cover approximately 400 square miles, their populations are quite different–Sullivan is home to 150,000 people, and Ashe only 27,000. The relative size of the two county jails tells the tale of crime rates. The Sullivan jail holds nearly 800 inmates and is often full. In 2012, the state of Tennessee ranked #1 in the nation in violent crime calculated on a per capita basis. Ashe County jail, a state-of-the-art facility, holds 200 and normally “rents out” half its space to house North Carolina State inmates.

The Sullivan County and Ashe County Sheriffs’ Offices provide the National Geographic Channel unprecedented access to follow the peace-keeping process in Appalachia. From 24/7 ride-alongs with deputies to real-time crime investigations to personal drama inside jails and courtrooms.

Sheriffs Wayne Anderson of Sullivan and James Williams of Ashe, both natives of the area, are fans of the 50-year-old hit TV series “The Andy Griffith Show.” They feel deputies in the Blue Grass area need to have a “little bit of Andy” in them–a “tough love” approach to law enforcement, requiring compassion and respect for even the toughest criminals, at least until they prove that a show of force is necessary. Both counties are equipped with K-9 and SWAT units comparable to those of major cities. Assault weapons are part of every deputy’s in-car arsenal.

While moonshine once gave way to marijuana as a top source of trouble in both counties, today methamphetamine-making, prescription drug addiction, new “designer drugs” like “bath salts” and “gravel,” and the never-ending issues associated with alcoholism account for nearly 90 percent of crime in the area.

Most Sullivan and Ashe Sheriff employees grew up in the area. So both counties are “big small towns” where everybody knows everybody. With most patrol cars carrying only one deputy, back-up can often be thirty minutes away. So it’s not unusual for long-standing relationships to pay off when a neighbor needs to provide unexpected help to a single deputy needing help.

On Southern Justice, what you see is what you get.  Some stories have happy endings, some not. But the unique combination of “action and compassion” make the philosophies of both departments unique in the world of American law enforcement.

Tune in to Southern Justice: Blueridge Bloodshed tonight at 9P.


  1. Shannon Davis
    Cordes Lakes, AZ
    September 17, 2014, 8:10 pm

    I can’t believe they don’t let us know at the end what happens to the few criminals they follow throughout the program!! Like what the judge sentences them to, or anything!! How disappointing! Otherwise, like the show!!

  2. Jack Cunningham
    September 18, 2014, 8:33 am

    A horribly produced, inaccurate pile of garbage that has no place on television. Expanding inaccurate stereotypes and showing some of the worst of the worst in the bigoted views of producers aiming to make a lot of money from the destruction of the reputation of the area that so many are trying to build. If this piece of garbage is allowed to continue, the sheriff and the entire county commission needs to be put out to pasture.

  3. jack Cunningham
    September 18, 2014, 8:42 am

    Sort of funny that there are no comments. Since you are censoring the bad comments, I guess there is nothing left to show. I will be contacting each and every sponsor of the show. It is time that we take a stand against this bigoted and hate filled approach to television National Geographic, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  4. S Brewster
    Dallas/Ft. Worth
    September 18, 2014, 1:28 pm

    Booooorrring! Had high hopes for this show, first episode is probably my last. Talk talk talk talk,crime, talk talk talk.

  5. justin doran
    Sullivan County TN
    September 19, 2014, 1:26 am

    I am a long time “grew up” resident of Sullivan county TN, I feel Honorable that national Geographic has shed some light on my home town, I feel people need to realize what happens in our area and how our officers actually do there jobs. Our crime rate has went sky high here and people need to stop talking dirty about this show, You see all kinds of police shows on tv, So why is it so wrong for Sullivan county to show we do have criminals. This not only helps local residents to know who to stay away from but also helps everyone know our officers are better than people make them out to be. For example, Alaska state troopers, Police shows, ect. I don’t see anyone complaining about that! So before people speak please realize this is a very good thing for our area and not only our area but a great show for the world to see! PLEASE CONTINUE TO MAKE MORE EPISODES AND CONTINUE THIS AWESOME WORK!!!

  6. bob
    United States
    October 2, 2014, 10:28 am

    I like the show, it doesn’t seem fake like so many shows out there. Its about time the truth is told about the real drug and alcohol problem. Here in Washington state since marijuana become legal all they talk about is weed. Yet since alcohol stopped being controlled and sold by state control liquor stores the DUI rate has increased. Yet they would rather talk about marijuana. Truth is alcohol and meth are a major problem here.

  7. Shelle Contini
    October 8, 2014, 8:54 pm

    Why in the world would you film a police officer speeding through town WITHOUT WEARING A SEATBELT. REALLY Stupid T.V.

  8. linny
    October 8, 2014, 10:53 pm

    I like this program. It shows a much different view on how the deputies have to wear different hats due to the fact of the poverty, aoda issues and how everyone is somehow connected to everybody. I am tired of the same old cop shows. SJ I hope continues on as it truly gives an insight to the problems of Appalachia that I would not know. People who are condemning this program, maybe you have had a personal tour of the fine jail establishment?

  9. morn1960
    United States
    October 9, 2014, 9:59 am

    after last nights episode 10-8-2014 everyone can see what we in the south have to put up with out of our police. One explicit case of extreme brutality when the jerk threw the guy 10 feet off a porch and one of harassment when the other jerk confronted a guy on his own personal property with no evidence other than an ex cops word, and we all know what bullies and jerks cops are. i hope that there are 2 less sheriffs deputies this morning and the country have to pay millions in damages.

  10. hellscanyonfishing
    Hells Canyon
    October 12, 2014, 11:41 pm

    I can’t believe none of the cops wear seatbelts! Speeding through town, swerving. Not a good, responsible show.

  11. Kris foster
    Shelbyville, TN
    October 24, 2014, 7:15 pm

    I love this show. Love Hoppy. The blonde deputy that wears her hair down though…. NoNoNo!!!! Not a beauty pageant and it will take getting her hair pulled one good time , maybe she will wear it up! Unprofessional! That said…This show really shows real life day to day police work in a rural environment. I am law enforcement and so appreciate that these deputies and police are down to Earth, respectful but get the job done. Love the show! Thank you Nat Geo!

  12. Jeff christensen
    Marion, mt.
    July 15, 2015, 9:50 pm

    What a bunch of u professional rednecks!! The same officers that would pull you or I over and ticket us for not wearing a seatbelt are in high speed chases and none of them are wearing their seatbelts!!! Way to lead by example guys!!!

  13. Jimbo
    September 5, 2015, 9:25 pm

    Looks like a civil right’s attorney’s wet dream. I support the police but these officers are absolutely repugnant.

  14. Kevin
    October 28, 2015, 10:01 am

    Officers take off their seatbelts when approaching a scene to avoid being trapped in the car and shot.

  15. Lisa Holden
    Blountsville, Alabama
    January 21, 2016, 5:40 pm

    I love this show!! Please have it on the National Geographic channel more often!! 🙂

  16. Tammy
    Madisonville Kentucky
    May 18, 2016, 10:36 pm

    Does anyone know why Hoppy isn’t in this season?

  17. Mary
    May 20, 2016, 10:43 pm

    I like the Southern Juatice program. However, it would be better if the officers wore their seatbelts.

  18. Bob
    Hutchinson kansas
    June 11, 2016, 7:14 pm

    Seatbelts. ….are police officers above the LAW. All these comments about not wearing seatbelts yet they continue not wearing them. Seems they do think they’re above the LAW that EVERYONE else has to follow.