The Lake County sheriff is behind bars.

But Sheriff Mark Curran hasn't committed a crime; he's spending a week in jail voluntarily.

Curran was locked up Wednesday. He said his goal is to talk to inmates so he can see the jail from their perspective. That way he can try to solve potential problems, such as safety issues, and better understand the inmate experience, he said.

Real inmates bunk together in a cell, but Curran will sleep in his own cell for safety reasons.

"I want some introspection but let's be realistic. I'm never going to be able to completely create that scenario," Curran told The Associated Press by telephone from jail Wednesday.

Curran said he's also trying to draw attention to the fact that jails are overpopulated with the mentally ill, the uneducated and repeat offenders. Rehabilitation needs to be a focus, he said.

So far Curran said he has met several inmates, not all of whom appeared to realize he was sheriff. For those who do recognize him, he said he'll have to work to gain their trust.

"There might be some skepticism amongst them," he said. "You break down the walls as much as you possibly can."

Unlike the other inmates, Curran gets to leave on a date he chooses: Aug. 27.