An Inmate’s Review: “Orange Is the New Black” – Episode 1
“Orange is the New Black” Review
“Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix’s latest original series, is based on Piper Kernan’s 2010 memoir. It is a comedy-drama about a naive yuppie, named Piper Chapman, sentenced to 15 months in a fictional federal minimum security women’s prison in New York. The author was incarcerated 15 months at the real Danbury Correctional Institution (also minimum security) in Connecticut for money laundering. As in the author’s real life, Piper is charged 10 years after leaving the drug business.
The first two episodes are intriguing, especially to viewers who are middle class and have wondered what prison is really like. This prison has the various assortment of characters that viewers typically find in a prison movie. The inmates included drug addicts, a transgendered hair stylist, lesbians, and even a nun who was serving time for violating the law at a public protest.
The episodes used, to great effect, flashbacks with all of the characters to create complete three-dimensional human beings. At first, the tough red Russian, Kate Mulgrew from the “Star Trek” series, appeared as the typical prison bully intent upon starving the new inmate for an insult. The episodes revealed a complex character who was far more than a bully.
It was fascinating to watch the main character, Piper, come to terms with the loss of every day amenities that were taken for granted by her in the outside world. Amenities such as decent food, privacy in the bathroom and shower, communications with family and friends, and the list goes on. The officers in charge are not portrayed as in detail as the inmates, but I found this aspect realistic.
As a former male inmate incarcerated for 15 months for a non-violent economic crime, I agreed with the show’s portrayal of the correctional officers. Some officers were bad, a few were good, and many were indifferent to the inmates warehoused in our prison system.
Inmates do not want to interact with correctional officers. Interaction can lead to misunderstanding and punishment. Correctional officers do not want inmates to know about their lives outside of the prison for obvious safety reasons.
Just like Piper in the first two episodes, my money from home for commissary arrived late. I did not have any funds for shower shoes. Shower shoes were so important if you wanted to avoid catching any fungi or bacteria in the shower. An inmate who observed my dilemma, pulled me aside and gave an old pair of shower shoes that were considerably taped to me. I will never forget this random act of kindness by a fellow inmate.
Although you do see some fighting in the show, the atmosphere of potential violence at any time was not part of the episodes. This omission was realistic since the prison was a minimum security facility and the inmates were not male. If you want to get a sense for prison culture it does a decent job. The creator also wrote “Weeds” so you get a great balance of the dramatic with the comedic.
Kudos to the producers to bring attention to conditions of confinement. I know this will spark conversation and that’s a good thing. If you’d like a peak inside an Arizona prison, read my memoir, The Slumber Party from Hell. Like Piper, I was an educated woman entering a foreign land. Unlike her, I went in with advanced breast cancer and battled medical while watching my young roommate, Gina, die of myeloid leukemia. I found my passion on this journey and now run a non-profit, Gina’s Team. We bring educations programs back inside the prisons here and have a Welcome Back… Read more »
I spent almost three years in Perryville prison and learned firsthand about the “just-us” system. Prison is a wake up call that no one wants but that everybody needs-because jail and prison can happen to ANYONE at anytime. Being innocent until proven guilty is a DREAM, not a reality, in this country. I never comprehended that until it happened to me! I had never been in trouble before and found myself staring down the barrel of an unjust sentence with no ammunition to fight a battle with since my public pretender was exactly that. He was pretending to be a… Read more »
Thank you for this information about a movie on review. How can I get one. Otherwise in reality Prison condition and the whole Justice and correctional system ,should be subjected to regular reviews to be able to strategize and address the missing gaps as well as the emerging issues.
I applaud the producers for telling this story and for NetFlix streaming the video. This and many more stories should be told for those who have an appeal to those wishing to view the prison experience from their living room couch. Being in prison is only the beginning of prison experience for many ex-offenders. If NetFlix really wants America to see the effects of a prison experience, stream the video of Omar and Pete that depicts America’s discrimination and ostracism. But then I forgot, that would view America as an antagonist, which is bad for ratings;not to mention bad for… Read more »
I applaud the producers for telling this story and for Netflix streaming the video. This and many more stories should be told for those wishing to view the prison experience from the safety of their living room couch. Being in prison is just the beginning of the prison experience for many ex-offenders. If Netflix really wants America to see the effects of a prison experience, stream the video of Omar and Pete that depicts America’s discrimination and ostracism towards Americans with felony records. But then I forgot, that would view America as an antagonist, which is bad for ratings;not to… Read more »
Kudos to Netflix. The more we shine a light on conditions of confinement, the more conversations will be sparked. If you want a look at Arizona prison, I suggest you read my book, The Slumber Party from Hell. It’s another part of the conversation about prison life.
Here’s a stunning statistic. Since 1979, Arizona’s population has doubled to 6.5 million people. Its prison population has increased 1056%. Now that is worth a conversation.
We shall not only try to carry the light of God to Arizona prison alone, but we shall continue to pray to God,to raise up more volunteers to go for the ripe harvest in the prison walls. More should also be done in advocacy form, to see that the conditions of those in prisons are improved to habitable and health environments, looking at imprisonment, as a correctional measure rather than as a punitive measure alone. Prisoners or inmates should leave prisons better off than how they went in and this requires a concerted effort of all of us putting in… Read more »
[…] issues discussed in our articles such as;the status of felons in our society, life in prison for women, and the continuing harsh treatment of inmates in California and other states. Many inmate families […]