As most of you know, the second season of Orange is the New Black is now available on Netflix for your viewing pleasure. It was based off of Piper Kerman‘s memoir and her time in prison. In case you have been living under a rock, or at least without access to Netflix, I highly recommend you check it out. I have yet to read the book itself, but it’s on my list as soon as I finish A Song of Ice and Fire. So it will be awhile. That being said, my thoughts and interpretation are strictly from the show itself.
In the first season, Piper was a sad puppy in a big, new world. As the show progresses it shows her journey. She transitions into a fighter. Not in a literal sense, but she is discovering how to survive in this unfortunate situation. And it isn’t just about her experience. You meet a multitude of characters in the prison. You get a glimpse of their lives. The guards, those higher up, among other inmates, they all are interacting in this little society. Like any society, there’s a system, a hierarchy almost.
You notice the subtle racism here and there. You notice the stereotypes. You can clearly see the prison industrial complex at work. This may be just a show, but it hints at very real problems. As soon as the second season came out, I was eager to watch the trials and tribulations of Piper and her peers. Notice I use “peers.” In prison, it doesn’t matter what your life was in the before time, in there, everyone is a criminal. So I binged out. Within two days I had watched the entire season. It was…intense. Awe-inspiring. Shocking. Funny. Moving.
I would say a lot of what happened was bullshit. I thought, “they’re blowing this out of proportion. There is no way this actually happened.” But then I took a break. I stepped back into my own state of mind. After some thought, I decided that it very well could have happened. (I’m trying to be vague as to not spoil anything). Some of the events made me cringe. I hate that I am so caught up in this.
On one hand, these women are in there for a reason. They made a mistake. They need to be punished for what they did. The old saying, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” comes to mind. Yeah, these girls should not be living luxuriously. They should be receiving the bare minimum. Shelter, clean clothing, edible food, working plumbing. They should go outside and be able to exercise. Science proves that it helps one’s overall health. Just because they’re being punished doesn’t mean their bodies should deteriorate. Acceptable, but not overly comfortable. And yet, that’s exactly it. They aren’t living in those conditions.
The place looks awful. The bathrooms. If they are anything like the show portrays them, God bless those inmates. I can only imagine how much asbestos and mold those women are breathing in. And if the cook doesn’t like them, I hope they have money to buy food from commissary. Sketchy plumbing. Washers and dryers that aren’t reliable. The track gets shut down. The gym that was paid off but never built. It’s rather obnoxious. Sure these women messed up a time, or a dozen. But let’s be real here. Haven’t we all? Maybe we just weren’t caught. So who are we to judge what type of living conditions these women must live in?
Are we going to help these people? Are we going to sit back and let this happen because we’re distant? Oh, it doesn’t affect me, so I’m going to turn a blind eye. That’s how I thought. Before I watched this show I had the mindset that criminals didn’t deserve any niceties. I’ve officially changed my mind. These people are criminals, but they’re still people. Breaking the law is breaking the law, but it doesn’t mean that we have to dehumanize anyone. In the case of some of the characters, I’d say they are more deserving of being in a psych ward if anything. But what are you gonna do?
So what is the point of this? For one, go watch the show. It’s spectacular. Secondly, go out and do something. Write a senator, or representative. Be a pen pal with a prisoner. Donate toiletries. Talk about it to raise awareness? Something. Show these women that they aren’t forgotten. Show those with the utmost of privileges that what is going on isn’t right.