Warning this article contains spoilers.
Now in its fourth season, Orange Is The New Black didn’t hesitate to keep the drama going as the season begins immediately following where season three left off. Piper believed she was the big dog on campus, or in this case the prison, Lolly helps Alex escape from her killer, and chops up the body and buries it to hide the evidence, a celebrity joins the prison, some familiar faces resurface, and we see the death of one of the few sane inmates.
The women this season were treated as the lowest of the low as they were made to demeaning acts including standing on tables for days and forced to fight each other. Although the series is meant for entertainment, it gives a sense of what some women go through in this setting.
Okay so it’s not that much of a spoiler, but it is the synopsis of what most are calling one of the most intense seasons ever. However, most of the outrage surrounding the season didn’t come from the inmates but from the new force brought in following their escapades in the lake. This season highlighted three things; how women behave in these facilities, lack of law enforcement training and misconduct, and racism.
To understand what the meaning behind this season is we have to look at the top three things that happened and how it relates to real life facts.
Cliques and Gangs
Examples from the season are seen as women create cliques by race and ethnicity for safety. We see white supremest groups make hateful responses towards the African American and Muslim inmates and Hispanic women show their power in numbers. Along with the exception of a couple of inmates, everyone fostered to their own to fit in as shown by Dayanara Diaz, played by Dascha Polanco, after her mother was released.
Guard Mistreatment and Police connection.
The new guard Piscatella has molded himself to be the authority by doing the opposite of what was told by Warden Joey Caputo. In the episode entitled “The Animal”, the inmates had enough of the guards throwing them on the ground and treating them with disrespect. During the result of a peaceful protest, Poussey Washington, played by Samira Wiley, was put on the ground with a knee to her back. As she laid there while the guard was fighting off Susan with his knee on her back she uttered the words “It hurts”, which is similar to Eric Garner’s “I Can’t Breathe” who was killed by police in a similar matter. this episode showed that this is not just about guards, but law enforcers having the proper training to handle small situations.
Women’s Action In Prison
According to americanjail.org, there are ten facts about women in prison that are seen during this season alone. some include the following:
Women’s engagement in criminal behavior is often related to their connections with others. Maria goes back to her Dominican roots and begins running a drug ring inside of the prison. She tried to leave her roots because of her dad’s involvement in drugs, but with the race wars going on she felt she had to join with her race.
Corrections policies and practices have largely been developed through the lens of managing men, not women. With Piscatella running the show the women have been treated harshly. Caputo however, revealed that he was moved to Litchfield from another facility for men. Although we don’t know what got him moved, his actions showed how aggressive they had to be to men, and he is using the same techniques on the women.
And Transition and reentry from jail to the community can be challenging for women.
Aleida Diaz, played by Elizabeth Rodriguez, has been released from the prison and is struggling to cope with her freedom. She now stays with her boyfriend’s new girlfriend and their child. This shows that if a person is incarcerated for so long and are released they have a difficult time readjusting to everyday life.
These are just some of the things that happened during the season that can light a fuse for discussion on what happens not only in prison but in different race and ethnic groups and how we need to learn from one another. Following the Black Lives Matter message, there is more to the 13 episodes then just entertainment. The rest of the facts can be found on the American jail website.
The popular Netflix show, based on the book by Piper Kerman, has become a hit to the binge watching generation. For most, with season four behind us, season five couldn’t get here fast enough. With each season comes controversial topics, and thanks to the show hopefully these are the ones that should be talked about so there is more understanding surrounding women and their background before and after prison.