Cell On Fire: Orange Is the New Black S4 E4 “Doctor Psycho” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S4 E4: “Doctor Psycho”

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.

Orange Is the New Black S4 E4 “Doctor Psycho” allows me to discuss the need for transparency in prisons, how punishment beyond solitary looks, and the ongoing problem of Doggett and Donuts. Enjoy!

If you have not seen all of my recaps, here is a link to the complete guide.

If you are a fan of the show, you should help me in supporting “Dignity For Incarcerated Women Act” in the US Senate and House of Representatives (ensuring that women prisoners have free access to sanitary napkins, aren’t put in solitary when pregnant, and aren’t shackled when pregnant etc.).

Contact Your Senator

Contact Your Congressperson

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Some Things About Season 4 Episode 4 “Doctor Psycho”



OITNB S4 E4 “Doctor Psycho” is about:

* Healy’s complicated, to say the least, relationship with his mother. For those who have forgotten, Healy’s mother was mentally ill at a time when the medical science was not very advanced around mental illness. Anyway, Healy’s dad decides to get his wife electroshock therapy which, as you might imagine, does not fix her. She ends up running away after Sam tells her that he likes her better after shock treatments. As near as we can tell, Sam never sees her again.

The combination of having a mother that he loved and lost but could never understand combined with his own feelings of complicity has created his overwhelming confusion and anger towards women (and makes him uniquely unsuited to his job, in several flashbacks we see him trying to date the people he is counseling etc.). We also found out, during this episode, that his Dad taught him that lesbianism was a form of mental illness which put the final cherry on the Healy cake.

Despite all of this, we see again, that in certain instances (very specific instances) Healy can still save the day (in the oddest possible way). Just when Red, Frieda, and Vause have decided that they will have to kill Lolly (or risk her telling the world about what they have done) Healy intervenes with Lolly convincing her she isn’t being surveilled (even though she tells him everything, including that she killed the hitman).

I am still totally confused by how MCC could lose a guard and have no idea that it happened. Yes, private prison companies are incompetent, but they have totally forgotten a correctional officer. That seems a bit far-fetched, even for MCC.

* Judy King making friends with Luschek which upsets Healy. Healy forces Judy King to teach a basic cooking class to get her away from Luschek. Judy King refuses but Healy insists. The class goes well but King complains about Healy. Healy gets fired as Judy’s counselor but gets credit for having started the class.

* Piper continuing her insane fight with the Dominicans. Piper starts following Pidge and Ouija and has her Hawaiian “muscle” take panties forcibly from one of them. Maria and her crew were running an alternative panty business about as respectfully as you could considering Piper wasn’t defending her turf but Piper trying to muscle the Dominicans makes negative sense here.

I guess this is another one of those storylines I just love to hate. Piper is not tough, her only hope would be to garner enough goodwill and share the wealth enough that powerful people protected her enterprise.

To be 100% honest, Maria would have her beaten down and they would either make sure she was totally removed or would make her run their business for them.

* Sophia fighting back against being kept indefinitely in protective custody. If you have read my Season 5 coverage, this is a lot of why I have some antipathy towards Caputo. He likes to pretend he is a nice guy, but he knows keeping Sophia in solitary for her own protection is BS and he sacrificed her to get ahead at MCC.

Sophia floods her cell and then tries to light her cell on fire.

* One of the most disturbing of the many disturbing discussions between CO Donuts and Dogget about sexual assault.

* Aleida finding out she is likely to be released soon (which means she might be able to find and recover Daya’s kid from child protective services).

Lighting Your Cell On Fire

In Michigan, destroying your cell or damaging your cell can bring new charges. Flooding and burning you cell would likely bring serious charges (arson, endangering the lives of prisoners, etc.).

It is absolutely horrible that Sophia is in protective custody, but if she was protesting in this manner they would likely put her in a restraining chair and throw the book at her (a restraining chair prevents you from moving at all). Most likely they would also put a mask on her that would prevent her from biting or spitting at the CO’s.

She is between the proverbial rock and a hard place and the prison holds all the cards (this is why so many people get stuck in solitary for years at a time).

Also, that brick she got for food, that is a real thing. When you are in SHU you get bricks of food just like that.

The Donut Doggett Problem

This just keeps getting worse. Donuts explains to Doggett that it couldn’t have been rape because he told her that he loves her before doing it.

Seriously? I mean I am sure some people believe that, but come on.

As we learned from Mendez, any relationship between a CO and an inmate is by definition coerced (before we even get to the ‘crazy’ nonsense donuts is suggesting here). I guess I am just constantly confused by why this relationship is an ongoing thing?

What is the point of having Doggett constantly caught between the abuse and love? Yes, I get that this is how battered or abused women frequently get trapped emotionally in bad relationships but do we really need to see Doggett, someone who has been traumatized her entire life, revictimized by and aspiring to Donuts?

With Responsibility Comes Great Power

Just wanted to mention that Suzanne came up with a pretty good metaphor for the entire prison industry when she inverted the classic Spiderman mantra (With power comes great responsibility).

Unfortunately, responsibility is often created by attention and not by character.

Once I was caught, I took responsibility and worked very hard at trying to figure out and fix whatever had caused me to go so far off the rails of my life. But, while I was struggling and trying to deal with my problems prior to being arrested, it was the urgency of having to face what I had done that really woke me up to the urgency of my problems.

This is certainly true with prisons and jails as well. Prisons and jails have very little transparency, the ability for an inmate to bring attention to abuses is extremely limited and the administration does everything it can to make the process nearly impossible to navigate.

For instance:

* Prisons and jails are black boxes. Nothing gets in and very little gets out. There is no press coverage unless a riot breaks out (and even then, access is often severely restricted).

* In Michigan, just to get to a judge you have to go through four very specific and detailed stages of what are called, "grievance procedures." Each in this process takes months to resolve and requires the ability to write and to understand the law.  

* If you are lucky enough to get a jailhouse lawyer, if your case looks to be proceeding effectively the prison administration will often move your lawyer to another facility in order to make it much harder for you to confer on your casework.

* Like with police, it is incredibly hard to get a conviction against a CO regardless of how strong your case for corruption or abuse is. Generally, when a CO gets disciplined or moved it is because the other CO’s complain or let supervisors know that a particular CO is putting their lives at risk etc.

Part of the reason shows like OITNB and Oz have been so successful is that they give people a look into a secret world. It is very unhealthy to give ANYONE so much power over a group of confined human beings. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Nothing good happens in spaces where there is no accountability. Transparency is the best disinfectant.

Even if prisons continue to operate without major reforms, we should insist on community mechanisms ensuring transparency. For 100% sure, we need the most transparency in the places where prisoners are the most vulnerable (people in SHU for instance, should have regular, and unscheduled, visits from community members).

Unlocking The Gates



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).

Since only one person has responded to a question in months, I am ending the questions.