An ex-con reviewed Orange Is The New Black and it’s hilariously refreshing. Her first obvious note is that the show is more Blossom than Lockup, where guards act like exasperated dads instead of strangers paid to rule your life.
A former heroin addict and armed robber, Susan K. did four years in Jessup, Maryland’s prison after her boyfriend gave her up to police when he was arrested. Now she's home and happily living her life without bars. Naturally, she initially avoided Jenji Kohan's juggernaut — who wants to remember the “worst years” of their life? — but K. finally gave into pop culture and watched some of the second season with a childhood friend from the Washington City Paper. Here are a few plum observations:
Pretending to Be Insane Is Actually Really Hard
What would prisoners have to do to get sent to solitary confinement?
Contraband was one thing. Fighting, of course. But some people wanted to get sent to solitary because they felt threatened or unsafe. There was this one woman who starved one of her children to death, and that was all over the news, and everybody was just fucking terrible to her. She didn’t feel safe in general population, so she requested solitary, and they gave it to her. Some people also pretended to be crazy so they could get sent to the crazy wing, which was apparently easier. There was this one woman who threw her own shit at the guards and just ranted and raved, but that sort of thing is really difficult to keep up. Go ahead and try acting crazy for an extended period of time. Not like Klinger on M*A*S*H, where he wore a dress, but like real, honest to God batshit. You can’t keep that up forever, you know?
A Serious Criminal Act Can Give You Cred But Voodoo Works Best
And after a while, word got around that I had committed armed robbery, and that helped. … Armed robbery is different than being involved in the drug trade, which is what most of these women were in for. The word got around that I had robbed a bank, which wasn’t really true. And never mind that I was trembling and scared shitless when I did hold up that dry-cleaner. I literally pissed myself when I did it, but the image in their mind was that I was, you know, rappelling down the side of a building like in the movies or something. Another thing that helped was the whole Wicca thing. I’ve been practicing it since I was 15. So, I asked for permission to use the chapel for it, and none of those women knew what the hell that was, and word got around that I was a witch. … I’m not joking. You would not believe how many of them thought that I was going to put some sort of voodoo curse on them. It’s not like I cultivated the idea that I was a bank robbing witch, but letting them think that definitely got me some breathing room.
Sentencing Inequities Between Blacks and Whites Stirs Racial Tension
But I’ll tell you the most believable thing about this whole series is the idea that Piper only got 15 months for running dope money.
Why is that believable?
Because she’s white, rich, and blonde.
Does that make a difference?
I’m a white blonde girl who went out and willfully fucked up and committed armed robbery, and I got five years. There were tons of black girls in my prison who were holding onto a bag of dope for a couple of days, and they always seemed to get, like, 10 years. If you ever find yourself in prison and wonder why there’s tension between white and black, shit like that is probably one of the reasons.
That’s incredibly unfair.
It absolutely is. But that didn’t prevent me from moonwalking the fuck out of that place when the time came.
Pennsatucky Is Real
They got that particular stereotype nailed. The methed-out hillbilly. God, those girls used to just set my teeth on edge. They were this pack of barefoot morons, straight from the fucking holler, you know? And they were all super religious, except they apparently had this new chapter in the Bible that told them to hate black people. And Latinas. And oh my God, they hated the white girls who acted black. ... And they hated me because of the Wiccan thing. They totally believed in the “Susan is a witch” mythology... And again, here are convicts all gathered around all sorts of machinery and chemicals down in the laundry, and not a damned guard in sight.
Honestly, this is the most fun I’ve had reading about OITNB yet, and there are a good number of articles out there. Do yourself a favor and finish this piece.