Free Tampons Now!: Orange Is the New Black S3 E11 “We Can Be Heroes” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S3 E10: “He Can Be Heroes”

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.

Two big action items this week:

  1. If you live in Michigan, Legislation on repealing Driver's Responsibility Fees has been moving forward. Here was a piece that I wrote earlier this month on the subject.Unfortunately, a newer version of the bill that limits forgiveness has passed the Michigan Senate, and we encourage are encouraging you to contact your representatives and the Governor to let them know that they should support the House version of the bill supported by Speaker Leonard that does not limit forgiveness to only those with fees from six years or older. Driver's responsibility feels were enacted simply to balance a budget, have not been proven to be effective in increasing public safety, and needlessly continue to punish people by having them pay fines while limiting their ability to transport themselves to work.

  2. Recently Congress passed a budget resolution setting their targets for next year including cutting $140 Billion from SNAP (otherwise known as Food Stamps). They want to cut food stamps so that they can make a tax cut benefiting the rich more palatable. Cutting food stamps uniquely affects the formerly incarcerated and their families and is an engine of insecurity. Food Stamps are also very important to poor people in general (and also help the economy).

This episode is OITNB at its darkest and least redemptive, this is probably my least favorite episode of OITNB in the entire history of the show (tbh I almost skipped it entirely on purpose).

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Some Things About Season 3 Episode 11 “We Can Be Heroes”

Netflix

Netflix

* Caputo’s backstory including his lifetime of playing the hero only to have everything possible go wrong every time. Ultimately, the point seems to be that Caputo plays the hero in order to feed his own ego (and has really bad luck) regardless of how much he really wants to help anyone (he never really consults with them before committing to ‘helping’ them). This is all part of the setup for Caputo flipping on his original CO’s and siding with MCC. We already have seen some massive hints that Caputo, deep down, likes to play the hero more than he actually wants to be heroic (see how he took advantage of Fig when he had the upper hand).

Speaking of Fig, this was also the episode where we learn that Fig and Caputo are hooking up regularly for sex. EEEEK.

Oh, did I mention that the old school CO’s are attempting to unionize and Caputo agrees to lead the union (this is clearly going to end in tears)?

* Healy using Suzanne’s writing to get Birdie fired. Birdie does an excellent job of reading Healy’s true problem (he hates women who expose his inability to understand women - like his mother who was mentally ill).

* Piper turning full-on gangster, lying to Alex about her tryst with Stella, and union-busting her team of panty workers.

* The new CO’s making the error of sending Angie Rice home in place of Sarah Rice (I am sure Privatized Prisons are a total disaster, but this is pretty unlikely, the release process is tied to a bunk number, a prison id number, biometric information, and it has to be approved through a reentry plan arrived at with the unit counselor etc.

No matter how incompetent the staff might be, it would be really hard for anyone to mess up this many fail-safe levels.

* Boo discovering just how damaged Doggett is and trying to help her understand what has happened to her.

* The beginning of the fallout from Sophia pushing Gloria into the post during the last episode. The Latina’s start pushing the rest of the inmates to shun Sophia and spread sad transphobic rumors about her.

* Leanne and SoSo’s battle going nuclear. By the end of the episode, Leanne has cut SoSo’s hair while she slept. In real prison, you better do more damage than that, because SoSo would have to stand up for herself or literally be taken advantage of by everyone else. You can’t let anyone get away with taking advantage of your personal space.

Leanne would know this too, nobody would ever attack someone in their sleep without doing enough damage so that your target could not come back and attack you in retaliation. It would just be too risky. I know this sounds awful, but prison is awful.

“You Don’t Know These People”

Alex decides she has had enough of the new, uncaring, hardened criminal version of Piper. You know, the Piper who had become willing to be brutal to Flacca for trying to unionize her panty-business workers and is willing to do gang-style prison-to-prison payments to her prison “gang.”

Alex is totally right for calling Piper out for her indifference to the poverty that inspired Flacca’s hustle and it is really hard to like Piper very much when she abandoned Alex when Alex was really struggling with ‘paranoia’ and then cheated on her and lied about cheating on her right to Alex’s face.

But, right before she tells Piper goodbye she says something that is TOTALLY true in real prisons, she says “You don’t know them (the people who are working for her), you don’t know who they are connected to.”

I have seen this one actually play out in real life.

Gangs are very real in prison, and while most protection rackets are nonsense, gangs can protect their members and friends.

A few months before I got out of prison, a guy in his 70’s moved into a cube a few down from where I was bunking. The guy has one pair of really nice shoes and some low-level knuckleheads started harassing them about these shoes (because he is old, so he must be vulnerable).

Someone warns the knuckleheads that the guy is connected (which means a gang is looking out for him).

The old guy never says a word when they brace him for the shoes and they take the shoes.

A Few days later, knuckleheads get the holy hell beaten out of them and the shoes are returned to the old guy.

The moral of this story?

Alex is right, you never know who anyone is connected to in prison.

The Sadness Continues

I just can’t talk about this incomprehensibly tough Doggett situation much more. First, the show brutalizes her twice and then lets Boo show us just how damaged she is and how she has created a gigantic blank space where her ability to emotionally process and heal should be.

And it just gets worse and worse.

It is cool that Boo is trying to be helpful and explains what is wrong her thinking, but Doggett remains seriously damaged and is getting none of the help she needs and we have to watch it play out in slow-motion.

Too much sadness.

Time To Fight For Women’s Prisoners

Let’s be more heroic than Caputo and for better reasons.

Okay, this is a show about Federal Inmates at a women’s prison so I feel obligated to mention that The Federal Government is STILL charging women prisoners for tampons, pads, and liners despite a recent Bureau of Prisons Memo that makes this practice improper.

So imagine for a second, regardless of your actual biological gender, that you are a woman and your family can’t afford to put money in your account because they are poor, or because you are estranged from them, or because your parents have died.

Now imagine, that you have a normal jail or prison job (paying pennies on the hour) but have to pay for your own sanitary products for your monthly period and just don’t have the money.

How would you feel about that?

I am guessing it happens all the time in women’s prisons, why is that okay?

Jenji has said before that the whole purpose of the show was to demonstrate that people in prison are more than their worst moments (and to humanize women in prison). If her project has changed your opinion at all, I hope that you will help me agitate for passage of the “Dignity For Incarcerated Women Act” in the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Earlier this Summer, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren introduced this critical legislation in the Senate but, for some insane reason, it is still languishing in legislative limbo.  

I am most likely underselling the importance of the bill which would also ban Federal Prisons from keeping pregnant women in solitary or keeping them shackled. Male guards would no longer be allowed to supervise women in bathrooms (except during emergencies) and the Bureau Of Prisons would have to take the locations of mother’s children into account when placing particular inmates.

Women are the fastest growing population behind bars and the majority have yet to be convicted of a crime (because they are held in jail often unable to afford cash-bail). Women face many unique challenges in prison.

Law becomes Lawless Law when the spirit of law itself is violated by the letter and enforcement of unjust laws.  

In addition, given everything else that has been happening over the last few weeks around sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood, it should be mentioned that abuse happens to women in prison routinely according to both the ACLU and Amnesty International. Let’s try to do what we can to make this insanity stop.

I probably ask this too much, but if you watch the show, and care about the ‘faux’ inmates, this would be a great time to start calling your Senators and Congresspeople and asking them why they have not yet passed the “Dignity For Incarcerated Women Act.”

Contact Your Senator

Contact Your Congressperson

I know it can seem like nothing that anyone does makes a difference in what has become a dysfunctional Congress and Senate. But, we have recently seen normal folks just like us raise holy hell on health care, let’s let some important people know that it is entirely unacceptable to treat women like this.

And if you don’t feel like calling people and raising a ruckus, at least share this so more people might get involved.

Unlocking The Gates

Netflix

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).

Today's Comment Question is:

“Who do you find the hardest character to like on OITNB?"

Leave a comment, let people know.  Or, if you have questions, I respond to 100% of my comments!