Moon Power: Orange Is the New Black S3 E7 “Tongue-Tied” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S3 E7: “Tongue-Tied”

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.

I will keep on pushing for the Michigan C.A.R.E.S. task force to cover mental health reforms in Michigan’s jails and prisons (This is a new version of my paper which was published on the Daily Kos site).

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Some Things About Season 3 Episode 7 "Tongue-Tied”

Netflix

Netflix

OITNB S3 E7 “Tongue-Tied” is about:

* Norma’s backstory. Norma doesn’t speak because she is an extreme stutterer (we have seen her sing before, so we knew that she wasn’t mute). Angie was a hippie who joined a cult where she (and several other women) married the fugazi guru of the cult. Ultimately, as time passes, Norma ends up being the only woman who stays with the increasingly bitter and failed religious leader Finally, she reaches her breaking point (as he seemed to be continuously emotionally cruel to her) and literally pushes him off a cliff.

The point is that while Norma seems to be a push-over and to be taken for granted by Red, she has a breaking point and she is incredibly giving and kind until she gets pushed too far (and that she is more kind than naive).  Angie and several other inmates approach Norma to give the spiritual kindness but Red gets in the way.

Norma uses her “powers” to help get the kitchen back but when Red pushes her too far, Caputo shows up and informs everyone that they will be serving pre-packaged meals from now on. The implication being that Norma, after being taken for granted by Red, queered the kitchen. Norma takes off her apron, defies Red, and ends up meeting with the inmates anyway.

* Caputo struggles with the rules laid down by MCC, especially the rules that constrain his ability to train new correctional officers. When new CO Bayley reacts to a simple argument between two inmates playing Uno by pepper spraying everyone in the area, Caputo is awarded 6 hours of training time (instead of the normal 40). This was also the first episode where the name “Linda in Purchasing” was mentioned.

I will cover training in much more detail in upcoming recaps.

* Piper realizing that she can start a side-business (or hustle) selling panties to men on the outside by using excess Whispers fabric to sew extra panties and sell them after having inmates wear them. Vause supports her idea and their plan is to get her brother Cal to set up a website to sell the panties and on Vause convincing CO Bayley to be a mule for them.

Piper also connects with Lolly who she met when they were both incarcerated in Chicago.

* Cindy realizing that she will need to learn more about Judaism or risk losing her newly found Kosher meals.

* Suzanne becoming an underground writing success after Birdie rejects her first drama club script for being “too obscene.” Taystee passes the script to Poussey who loves it.

* The start of drama between Mendoza and Sophia. Yes, the same Sophia who set it up so that Gloria’s son could carpool to the jail in time for visits. Gloria’s son teaches Sophia’s son a bunch of 'bad language' and when Sophia complains, Gloria quits the kitchen and gets angry with Sophia (giving control of the kitchen back to Red).

You Live In Public Housing Because You Have A Record

Aleida tells Daya that she should give up her baby to Mendez’ mother so that the child doesn’t end up being raised in public housing with no future.

Aleida is, for the most part, right here. Most management companies, for instance,  have blanket policies against accepting applications from people with felony convictions. HUD guidelines allow people in protected classes (race, otherly abled etc.) to challenge blanket denials but most formerly incarcerated people are unaware.

Virtually all formerly incarcerated people start out in public housing or renting from a private citizen landlord. If a formerly incarcerated person is lucky, they already owned a house or have the resources to purchase a house.

Aleida is wrong about ONE part of what she says though, MANY formerly incarcerated people are legally banned from public housing.

If you were, for instance, a violent criminal or a sex offender you are part of a group of folks who can be legally discriminated against by housing authorities.

Many people reading this will probably think that this sounds fair, why would you want violent criminals or sex offenders staying in public housing. I have a few objections to this line of thinking:

* It is impossible to solve mass incarceration without coming up with meaningful solutions for returning so-called violent prisoners (one of the largest populations of incarcerated people) and sex offenders (the largest growing population in jails and prisons).

* In addition, some of the lowest recidivism rates of ANY prisoners are murderers and violent criminals because these are almost always contextual crimes of passion. As I have mentioned before, the vast majority of people I met who committed murders were just as surprised and upset about it as anyone else was (except perhaps the victim and victims family). Only in very rare cases are so-called violent criminals unrepentant recidivists.

* It is also important to remember that “violence” is defined in code, a HUGE number of so-called violent criminals were convicted of non-contact crimes. If, for instance, I was the getaway driver at a robbery and another person in my party shot someone, in many states I would be sentenced as a violent criminal. There are literally thousands of examples of violent criminals who never even touched another human being.

As I have mentioned before, I was convicted of an internet offense that was in no way involved with trying to meet anyone but my crime was coded violent. I don’t mention this because I believe I was innocent or because I don’t think I deserved punishment. I did.

I mention this because while words can “do violence” to people it conflates verbal violence with physical violence and the public assumption is that all “violent” criminals have physically attacked or killed someone.

* The second-lowest recidivism rates (out of all possible formerly incarcerated populations) are sex-offenders. Again, the point isn’t that sex offenders shouldn’t face punishment, it is that if your goal is to protect society, lots of evidence demonstrates that housing and economic insecurity are some of the prime drivers of recidivism. Why take populations that are less of a risk to society upon return and make them MORE of a risk to society.

I could talk about lots of other stuff here, and you already know my position on Mental Health reform (another option would be to insist that better cognitive behavioral therapy is available to formerly incarcerated people who have committed “violent” crimes). But instead, I will return to what Jenji has suggested is at the core of the show’s message:

“People are not their crimes.”

Giving people who are returning from prison a place to live and a chance to earn a living is both humane and also a much more effective public safety measure. How does it make society safer to have tens of thousands of homeless returning citizens?

Bug?

Vause calls CO Baley a “Bug” when she is talking to Piper about recruiting a CO to help with their panty business.

This was a bit of a misuse of the term, although it certainly often is used loosely in prison.

“Bug” is prison-speak for a human who is not worthy of being considered human.

It is usually used by prisoners to signify someone who nobody should associate with and who probably should be (or has been) the target of attacks.

Prisoners do sometimes joke around with each other using this term, but it generally is a way of describing people beneath social consideration (I am not sure Bayley, as odd as he is, is below human consideration).

I think Vause is suggesting, correctly, that the CO’s will not want to associate with Baley so he might be looking for friends.

Oddly enough, the only word I remember people NEVER being used to describe anyone face-to-face in prison was “Bitch.” You could be called a “Bug,” usually in jest, but you had to stand up for yourself immediately if anyone called you a “Bitch.”

I am sure this has something to do with patriarchy and gender, but if you are ever in jail or prison you should take it seriously if anyone calls you a “Bitch.”

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).

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