God’s Windows: Orange Is the New Black S4 E8 “Friends In Low Places” (Netflix)
Orange, Black, or Bleak S4 E8: “Friends In Low Places”
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 (a really deep dive, as this is my 51st recap).
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.).
If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*
Some Things About Season 4 Episode 8 “Friends In Low Places”
OITNB S4 E8 “Friends In Low Places” was about:
* Piper coping with being an outcast and having been branded. Ultimately, she tells Vause, Nicky, and Red who end up altering her brand so that it no longer is a swastika.
Piper also finds out that her brother Cal is having a baby with his wife Neeri. It seems clear that while she is very happy for Cal, she wonders how her idiot brother has done so much better at the game of life than she has.
Piper seems ready to accept that she should never have tried to be a gangster (thank God). She also finds out that Vause murdered Cubra’s enforcer and tries crack with Nicky and Vause.
* Red getting many of her toiletries and her beloved mirror stolen. She eventually figures out that they were stolen by Nicky who uses them "in trade" to purchase drugs. Nicky shares her drugs with Vause and Piper and also goes out of her way to make Morello paranoid about Vinnie and infidelity (which is truly cruel given Morello’s history).
Morello talks her sister into going to check in on Vinnie (what could go wrong?).
* Yoga Jones turning into a Judy King parasite and, in the process, turning against many of her long-held values and beliefs in order to use Judy King’s celebrity to procure items from the prison administration.
* Judy King figuring out, with the help of Poussey, a way to obliterate the story of her racist past. She has a picture taken of her kissing Cindy on the lips for Taystee and her crew to sell to the paparazzi.
* More fun with “vocational training” as the women are induced to dig the foundation for the new prison building. Boo figures out she can use lesbian stereotypes to get out of work (she pretends to fix broken construction equipment (while everyone else works).
* Maritza wants to quit being the mule for Maira’s panty operation. She asks Maria if she can quit and Maria threatens violence against her if she quits. Maria takes over Sophia’s barber shop (salon) and uses it as a front for selling drugs.
At the same time, Aleida is attempting to use the salon as a place where she can hone her talents doing peoples nails (because she is due to be released soon). She gets frustrated that Maria is going to mess up her release with the drugs in the salon (Maria doesn’t care).
* Donuts apologizing to Doggett and telling her that he wishes he had not sexually assaulted her. As much as I believe in Restorative Justice (a mechanism for someone guilty of a crime to admit fault and apologize for what they did to a victim of a crime)...This was hard to watch (perhaps because there is still a massive power imbalance inherent in the discussion.
* Crystal Burset approaching Caputo at home (with Linda from purchasing). Crystal is begging for information on Sophia and Linda pulls a gun and threatens to shoot her if she doesn’t leave Caputo’s property. Caputo, in a sign of just how far he has fallen, says that Linda’s actions were “so hot.”
Caputo talks a good game about feeling guilty, but he is totally complicit in all of the bad things happening at Litchfield.
Private Prisons and FOIA
Crystal Bursett complains to Capito that MCC is using their status as a corporation to block her attempts to use the Freedom of Information Act to get information about Sophia’s condition in the segregated housing unit.
Unfortunately, this is also a real thing. Private prisons are not covered under FOIA which applies only to state entities. As Lauren Brooke Eisen explained in her 2017 book “Inside Private Prisons”
“One of the reasons we know so little <about private prisons> is because private prisons are far less transparent than their public counterparts. When things go wrong, private prisons have every incentive to cover it up. A public prison - no matter how horrible the scandal - will never lose a contract, a private prison will. Worse, perhaps, private prisons are not covered by FOIA and open records laws (except in a few states) as are functions of government. Without the ability to file FOIA and open records requests, the public cannot learn the most basic information about what life is like inside these facilities (p. 180-181).
When you consider that a private prison corporation literally holds the power of life and death over their inmates, granting them the power to literally have zero public accountability seems both incredibly irresponsible and hugely profitable for private prisons. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and private prisons are allowed to do whatever they want to inmates with almost no ability for the public to ensure that they are running these facilities in an ethical manner.
This is a recipe for disaster and another example of how chasing short-term savings ends up creating unaccountable corporate leviathans rife with latent or active corruption.
Judy the Friendly Racist
It is almost MLK Day, and I wanted to remind all of you of two things:
1. Our prison system is proof of massive structural societal racism, here is some proof:
“African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states.”
That is some serious structural racism. In other words, people of color are incarcerated - for the same crimes - at rates of up to five times the rate of white people.
Some of our more racist friends will try to make the argument that somehow this is because black people are somehow more likely to commit crimes and especially crimes against white people. As the Southern Poverty Law Center points out this is total horseshit:
“Indeed, it is a core belief that this is the case, and many white nationalist ideologies — including politician and pundit Patrick Buchanan, Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, and the Council of Conservative Citizens — all have made considerable hay out of proffering “studies” laden with risibly bad statistics and other evidence to make their case.
The BJS study demonstrates plainly that this is simply not the case. Some 57 percent of crimes involving white victims were committed by white perpetrators, while only 15 percent were committed by blacks, and 11 percent by Hispanics. Black crime victims fell along similar racial lines, with 63 percent of the crimes committed by black perpetrators, while 11 percent were committed by whites, and 6.6 percent by Hispanics.”
In addition, the notion that black people somehow are more violent towards black people is also belied by this information. And, even if we were to pretend that it was true, one would expect that centuries of dispossession, real estate discrimination, white flight, the defunding of public schools, the concentration of the war on drugs in communities of color, and the sentencing disparities enforced on communities of color might have something to do with it?
2. It would sure be nice if white people would stop quoting the “I Have a Dream Speech” out of context.
Every Martin Luther King Jr. day, our leaders trot out a particular passage of his “I Have A Dream” speech.
For instance, just this week, President Trump said:
“Today, we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where hey will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
But we white people love to quote this out of context, to suggest that in Martin Luther King’s ideal “colorblind” society, black people should not get any special treatment or consideration and that it is, in fact, racist to treat black people any differently under the law than white people.
This interpretation suffers from what I call the “Starting Line” problem (where we pretend that everyone starts from the same line).
Martin Luther King Jr. was NOT saying that he wishes the Federal government would simply treat him the same as it treats white citizens. He was saying that he WISHES for a day in which equality of opportunity and circumstance make it possible for black folks to be treated as if they were the same as white folks (it was aspirational). Just a few paragraphs before the “content of their character” line, Dr. King said:
“Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of[ withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later, the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro still languishes in the corners of American society finds himself in exile in his own land.”
Certainly, Dr. King’s point was not to suggest that his dream was to pretend quality in principle should dominate over-enforced and policed inequality?
As I have said before, it is impossible to spend one day in jail or prison without noticing the massive racial disparity in incarceration. If we want to make Dr. King’s dream a reality, WE MUST STOP thinking it is okay to write and enforce laws that forge links in the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
And we need to stop thinking that colorblind laws, in a discriminatory society, pass for justice or are a fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream.
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).
And yes, the podcast is coming soon, it will be called "Decarceration Nation."