A Nation Outside: Orange Is the New Black S3 E8 “Fear, and Other Smells” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S3 E8: “Fear, and Other Smells”

As a formerly incarcerated person, I have been engaged in a deep-dive into the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black to help explain some of the things that folks watching the show without a felony background might not catch.

This episode was about bad food, bad management priorities, and the importance of fighting for much-needed change.

In case you are interested, I posted a piece on employment discrimination against women and formerly incarcerated people on the Daily Kos site this morning as well.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Some Things About Season 3 Episode 8 "Fear, and Other Smells”

Netflix

Netflix

OITNB S3 E8 “Fear, and Other Smells” is about:

* Vause’s backstory about her descent into addiction after Piper leaves and her mother dies. Fahri and Vause both start “getting high on their supply together” the end result is that Kubra has Fahri killed right in front of her (Fahri was Vause’s primary contact since the very beginning of her time in Kubra’s organization). Kubra sends Vause to rehab but warns her that he knows  people “everywhere.”  Now that Vause is estranged from Kubra she grows increasingly paranoid about Lolly (who seems to be following and tracking her movements).

* The inmates adjusting to the higher cost of commissary and new terrible food after MCC takes control of Litchfield. The administration at MCC trying to cut costs and inefficiencies in every possible way. The food is so bad that Red resigns from running the kitchen one-week after getting her job back.

* Piper trying to corner the market on Ramen Flavor Packets which become virtually the only means that prisoners can use to make the new food edible. Piper’s play is to use the flavor packets to induce prisoner’s to help her with her panty business. Piper also approaches and converts CO Bayley to help with getting the panties out of Litchfield.

* Suzanne’s erotic series of stories (aka “The Hump Chronicles”) gaining popularity all over Litchfield and the pressures popularity brings when a writer is surrounded constantly by her demanding fans (this episode made me feel a little sorry for George R.R. Martin who has been taking holy hell from fans for years about not finishing the next book in the A Song Of Ice And Fire Series).

* The short-term resolution of the growing tensions between Sophia and Gloria (over the friendship between their sons).

* A very bizarre scene between Doggett and CO Donuts that unfortunately is only a taste of more upsetting things to come (he suggests that Doggett pretend to be a duck and quack and waddle around for donut pieces when they go on an away mission together).

* Brooke SoSo going to Counselor Healy to ask to be moved to Birdie's caseload, which of course makes Healy insecure. Healy says no and suggests that she take anti-depressants (he also tells her that depression is all “in her head” and that people “don’t like sad people”). Berdie later confronts Healy who relents (but only after mentioning that he doesn’t have to deal with “someone like you” and doing some other awful things).

* Daya owning up to George Mendez mother that George was not the father of her child. This admission was triggered by George’s mom telling her, during a visit, about Aleida’s for-profit conniving (at the same time she was pushing for Daya to give up the baby).

* Poussey coming to the realization that she has become a full-blown alcoholic and Taystee tries to intervene so that she will start attending AA classes. Instead of going to AA Poussey decides to join the “Cult of Norma” instead to get direction.

* Seeing the very first appearance, in the flesh, of Linda from accounting. Also, we learn that Danny Pearson is the somewhat neutered offspring of the head of MCC. When he tries to push for increased funds for programming and books at Litchfield, his father tells him to stand up to Caputo and to remember that he is in charge. This conversation between Pearson and Caputo results in one of the more memorable songs ever performed on OITNB by Caputo’s band Sideboob (“You’re The Fuckin’ Warden”)

Ramen Noodles

I have mentioned before that Ramen Noodles, in some ways, are the core currency in prisons. Cook-ups, which are elaborate combinations of Ramen and other commissary items (and sometimes items from the kitchen) happen every day all over every prison and jail where I was incarcerated.

Ramen noodle Cook-ups are usually very communal, good cook-up chefs are highly valued and not easily discarded, and virtually every prisoner has their own personal favorite Cookup recipe and technique for creating a Cook-up.

What might surprise you is that when done right, Ramen Cook-ups are unbelievably tasty. I am not saying I miss Cook-ups, but I don’t “not miss” Cook-ups. Ramen Cook-ups are so popular and such an important part of prison culture that you can find recipes and stories about them all over the internet.   

Now, it is highly unlikely that Piper could “corner the market” on Ramen because most prisons and jails have a weekly limit on how many Ramen Noodle packets that one inmate can purchase. Piper could theoretically gather a group that, if large enough, would be capable of exhausting the Ramen supply but prisons stock a TON of Ramen (Ramen pretty much runs prison).

Prisoners do use Ramen noodles for spicing up the terrible prison food. In addition, many prisoners don’t even try to eat the food in the cafeteria choosing instead to survive entirely on commissary items (and other items, usually purchased from someone who can smuggle them from the prison kitchen).

Poussey’s Cry

I don’t have a ton to say about Poussey’s alcoholism today (although I wrote a book about addiction and recovery and am myself over seven years sober now).

However, she makes a statement to Poussey about why she is drinking so much in prison which included being lonely but also not feeling useful or feeling like she has any future.

This is INCREDIBLY true, what exactly does society expect when it strips inmates down to nothing, piles them with criminal justice debt, makes them face employment and housing discrimination upon return, and offers them no hope?

You might respond, why should I care, but over 90% of all inmates are coming home and many of them will be coming home to neighborhoods near you. You should care because inmates are human beings and if that isn't enough, you should care because joblessness and homelessness are the biggest drivers of recidivism.

When you hear people talk about recidivism and “dangerous” criminals please do not forget that the system is intentionally and cruelly set out to manufacture failure.

Which brings me to...

It Takes a Nation

Fear and Other Smells does a great job of getting to the core of why privatization of prisons usually ends up a dismal failure. Private Prison companies have a duty to their stockholders to continually deliver increasing value by cutting costs. Cutting costs guarantees bad prison outcomes and bad prison outcomes can end up being catastrophic.

As bad as publicly run prisons can be, and they can be a total horror show, they are at least partially judged by outcomes. One of the most important and innovative reforms suggested in decades cuts directly to the core of this problem and tries to ensure that Federal prison funding is tied to successful outcomes in terms of prisoner success during and after prison. This new Federal Legislation is called the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, was introduced by Corey Booker, and is based on this book written by the Brennan Institute.

How amazing would it be if prisons were judged not on how successfully they incarcerated an inmate but instead by how successfully those inmates were prepared for and reintegrated into society? As the incredible criminal justice reform advocate and formerly incarcerated person Glenn E. Martin put it (and he is someone I consider a mentor):

“It’s now time for our elected officials in D.C. to step up. Voters are ready, and it is their job to act — starting with quick passage of the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate in June, so there is no excuse for delays. You can’t change the past, but you can take bold steps to affect the future. That’s what we expect from our elected officials.”

We can insist on change, nobody else will do it if we don’t start demand that our systems of power think and act differently. We need to insist that our Senators and Congresspeople support this important piece of legislation.

If they don’t act now, we need to keep pushing them until they have to act. According to the ACLU, 1 out of every 3 people in America has a criminal record. If all of the people who have records unite with all of their family members and friends, WE ARE A FUNCTIONAL MAJORITY.

The criminal justice system in the United States beats us down, makes us live in our shame, and makes it feel like if we raise our heads up they will beat us right down again. But I know one thing, if we don’t start putting our heads up and working together, things will never change.

It is time to start building a NATION OUTSIDE comprised of people who were formerly incarcerated, their family members, and their friends. Please consider joining the criminal justice reform movement in your state and across this nation (and please feel free to join us in Nation Outside here in Michigan as well).

#NationOutside

<while I do belong to an organization called Nation Outside, I am talking about the principle behind that name as much as I am about the organization>

Unlocking The Gates

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Netflix

I am a member of a Criminal Justice Reform organization called Nation Outside (The Voice of the Formerly Incarcerated) but I am not speaking for Nation Outside in any official capacity.

If you are interested in criminal justice reform or are formerly incarcerated yourself, please consider joining the fight (if you are a Michigan resident - you can sign up by clicking on the hyperlink above).

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