"Low-Key Lit" Orange Is the New Black S6 E7 "Changing Winds"

“Changing Winds” Orange, Black or Bleak? Season 6 Episode 7 (Netlfix)

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Okay, up to recap number 72.

Sadly, Kathy said she was done, so you are stuck with just me again (just like the old days).

I hope you have been listening to my podcast Decarceration Nation, last week I had a discussion with James Kilgore a formerly incarcerated expert in electronic monitoring. Next week I will be talking about civil commitment with legal expert Guy Hamilton-Smith.

We are on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-In. You can also find every episode at DecarcerationNation.com.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 6 Episode 6 “State of the Uterus”

 Netflix

Netflix

Still pretty sure that the central machination of Season 6 - the underlying legal drama - doesn't make much sense. Any lawyer, even a public defender would have put the system on trial (especially in Red’s case) and inmates would know that (There is almost always at least one good jailhouse lawyer around advising inmates and they showed the law library multiple times throughout Season 6).

5. “Bitches Love Snapchat”

Not sure the profit ratio is right, but Badison is right that smuggling cell phones could be quite lucrative. So, it is true, one of the biggest issues in prisons - especially in areas where there are security issues. Cell phones are also often the scapegoats when prison administrations want to shift the blame onto prisoners when incidents occur.

In fact, since today is the last day of the National Prison Strike, I will talk a little bit about what happened in South Carolina during the Lee Correctional Riot earlier this year. There was an incredible tension between the reason officials gave for the riot (prisoners fighting over cell phones) and the reasons we heard from inmates (terrible conditions including broken locks, incredibly low ratios of correctional officers to inmates, corrupt correctional officers fomenting and assisting in violence, poor sanitary conditions, and food). In fact, the most important thing we found out was that the administration had moved one key peacekeeper out and moved rival gangs into the units where the riot started.

The most ironic part of the disjunct between the official story and the inmate's story is that we were only able to see the evidence validating the inmate's story because they had cell phones. Here is what my friend and Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Heather Ann Thompson said in the New York Times after the riot:

“The fact that the rioting went on for seven hours, and that so many died and were injured — 22 were taken to the hospital — was, they say, in no small part because corrections officers were AWOL. Notably, it is contraband cellphones that make it possible for these prisoners to get their own accounts of the riot to the public, as well as to document their claim that corrections officials could have prevented the high death toll.”

And:

“And they want us all to know that cell phones don’t just help them to tell the public about abuses in the system; cellphones also tether them to family, which should matter to all of us. (Prisons have phones inmates can use, but they are controlled by private companies that charge usurious rates.) As one man explained to me, every night he calls his daughter to help her with her homework. He is trying hard to be a good father even though he is locked up. The state is telling us that the inmates fight over cellphones, but this man told me he willingly shares his phone so others can reach out to their families, and that this practice is common.”

And:

They are desperate for state senators to pass new laws so that South Carolina prisoners have “an incentive to get out in society and live life again.” They argue that officials could eliminate the contraband problem simply by allowing cigarettes and cellphones to be sold in the canteen (instead of sold to them by guards, who can get upward of $1,700 for a phone). They would be less hungry if state officials would simply allow their families “to send inmates packages of food” and they’d be more productive and better able to re-enter society, they tell us if prisons simply reinstated classes in “life skills and trades.”

Of course, instead of cell phones, most prisons now have to pay usurious fees to the company Securus (who own Jpay) or GTL. In fact, these companies cut prisons in on the profits (often creating an odd conflict of interest resulting in prisons often accepting the HIGHEST instead of the LOWEST bidder for communication services). The FCC is currently making a decision on allowing even more market consolidation as Securus tries to take over IC Solutions.

Securus is under fire across a number of fronts over their profiteering (the breadth of which is stunning).  What is for sure is that when Departments of Correction crackdown on the use of contraband cell phones (and it is a crackdown - in South Carolina, you can get two years in solitary for having a cell phone) they are protecting a monopoly on information and on generating profits as well. And let us not forget that these same companies are trying to make the world into open air jails full of exclusion zones as well.

4. “I’ve Been Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places”

Daya, Daddy, and the other women just could not have free reign of the laundry area.

At a Max facility (and really at any facility), the inmates are not left unsupervised in the laundry and closets full of supplies are not left unlocked (you have to ask an officer for even the most basic of supplies). Even at the low-level security prisons, I was housed at, you did not have free access to the laundry areas or supply closets (which often also house cleaning supplies which can be poisonous or explosive).

Do prisoners have plenty of hiding spaces? Of course.

Do prisoners have full run of the facilities? Nope, not at all.

This is not a camp anymore, this is a Max facility. Max facilities have controlled movement and supervision at all times.

3. “It was a time of peace and fun”

Sports and recreation activities do bring the prison together. I have explained the importance of league basketball before but league softball is also HUGE in prison. I have never heard of kickball, but I suppose anything is possible.

In addition, often traveling softball teams come inside to pay inmate teams. This is always a big event and often a large percentage of the prison population will watch events like this.

Piper is right to suggest that sporting events can take the edge off of prison drama.  

2. “Yes, sir Hitler sir”

Changing Winds, the boot camp that we see young Badison enrolled in (and learning all of the wrong lessons from), is a typical “diversionary” tactic used by people who want to try alternatives to incarceration but still believe that the answer is “tough on crime.”

Unfortunately, what Badison needed (badly) was likely intensive anger management therapy and people who valued and gave her positive reinforcement. What she got instead was humiliation and brutality (and these camps are real - often even a real part of Departments of Correction).

When someone young learns that the only positive reinforcement they receive comes from acting out in negative ways.  

1. I stopped Fighting and Found Peace”

Always good to see Lolly, although sad to know she is stuck in the Mental Health block of Litchfield Max.

I only decided to comment on Maria’s visit to the Psych because it reminded me of my own visit to psych.

When I was first arrested I made the mistake of answering the question “are you feeling depressed” wrong (I said “yes, I am feeling a little down”). Not much later, I found myself in a padded suit in a suicide watch cell (entirely made of Plexiglas).

Eventually, I met with a therapist and had to convince her that I wasn’t suicidal. I couldn’t use my kid to prove I had the desire to live, but I was able to convince her that I had no desire to take my own life.

Unfortunately, my visit to the psych block was pretty disturbing. First was the Plexiglas cell and the padded suit, next was the women in the restraint chair in the next cell over screaming and crying all night, and I will never forget the people I met who had been in mental health solitary for over a year.

I wish I had never said that I was depressed...but, at the same time, I would never have seen what happens to people with mental problems in our prisons and jails if I had not visited the mental health block. As traumatic as it is for me in memory, I guess that it is important for these people to not be kept invisible and in silence.

I hope you will also remember that there are a ton of human beings locked away in mental health blocks in prisons and jails all over the country suffering in silence where nobody can see what is happening to them in our name.

Unlocking The Gates

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Netflix

New recaps will come out once a week (usually on Sunday mornings).

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. Thanks to whoever let me know <on Reddit> that the Nation Outside link that I had been using was broken.

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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