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Orange  is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S1 E12 “Fool Me Once” (Netflix)

Orange is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S1 E12 “Fool Me Once” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S1 E12: “Fool Me Once”

As a formerly incarcerated person, I have decided to do a deep-dive into OITNB to help explain some of the things that folks watching the show without a felony background might not catch or have the context to understand.

Apologies for this being a bit late today, I am on vacation visiting my family.

I will also occasionally suggest reforms to our Criminal Justice System.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 1 Episode 11 "Fool Me Once"

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S 1 E12 covers:

* The continuing dissolution of Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Larry's relationship. Culminating in Larry making an ultimatum that they get married now or split up.

* Tiffany Doggett's backstory and her attempts to convert and baptize Piper (which result in failure causing her to say that she will have to "Kill" Piper at the end of the episode.

* The sad resolution of Miss Claudette's appeal

* The ongoing fallout from Caputo (Nick Sandow) catching Officer Mendez (Pablo Schreiber) in the act with inmate Daya Diaz (Dascha Polanco)

* The return of Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson (Danielle Brooks) to Litchfield

* The rest of the story of how Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman) committed her crime.

* The start of an investigation into the misuse of funds at Litchfield correctional

5. "These Women are Criminals"

After the incident with Mendez, Caputo reprimands Officer Fischer (Lauren Lapkus) and tells her to be tougher with the inmates (after he sees her go easy on Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) who was smuggling food out of the cafeteria).

Unfortunately, the second person Officer Fischer tries to be "tough" with is Miss Claudette (Michelle Hurst) who is just returning from her failed appeal hearing. For most of Miss Claudette's time, she did not allow herself to believe she could be released. With the return of her childhood friend (who she has always had a crush on) she allowed herself to invest in the idea that her appeal might be successful. As Red (Morgan Freeman) said in the Shawshank Redemption in prison, "Hope can be a dangerous thing."

Anyway, Miss Claudette responds to Officer Fischer's harsh words by trying to strangle her (signaling that she has given up hope and no longer cares what happens to her). Miss Claudette is immediately shipped to the max facility and will likely face new charges and more time for the attempted murder (assault) of an officer.

Obviously, this is a dramatization, but I personally have seen inmates reach their breaking points. I saw my bunkie throw chairs and bedding at an officer after warning him that "now is not the time to fuck with me." I have often seen people snap with other inmates over stupid things like someone reaching over their food or standing too close to them in line.

Prison is a really odd environment because most of the time NOTHING happens but in that quiet, there is a constant and palatable tension. Everyone is trying to get on with their day but everyone always knows that at any minute things can go crazy. 

I suffer from what they call White Coat Syndrome which means that whenever a Doctor or Nurse gives me a blood pressure test my readings are artificially elevated. In other words, something about having my blood pressure tested elevates my stress levels and causes my blood pressure to rise.

Prison feels like living in a constant state of White Coat Syndrome (just being there is a constant stressor). 

So many things beyond a prisoner's control make prison a tinderbox and what Miss Claudette experienced is one of the biggest sources of fire. 

In Michigan, for instance, we have what is called "Truth in Sentencing" which means that you have a mandatory minimum sentence duration (you cannot be released prior to that date) but a much longer tail (the maximum sentence you could serve). 

In other words, you are not eligible for parole until your earliest release date (ERD) but you are not guaranteed release until you hit your tail (your maximum sentence). This means that inmates are up for parole, and often denied, over and over and over again.

Each denial encompasses a cycle of hope, preparation, the actual meeting, and waiting for your decision. At each stage of that process, you can become depressed, sad, angry, hopeful, hopeless, or even furious. 

Eventually, people snap. Miss Claudette snapped. 

I think the lesson here is not that Miss Claudette is a terrible kill-crazy "criminal" it is that every person has breaking points and good correctional officer's know when to cut inmates some slack and when to give them space.

For sure, smart prisoners know when to leave people alone and when to give them space.

4. Doggett

I usually don't spend too much time recapping the events of the show, but I did want to mention the creativity of Doggett's backstory.

Doggett (Taryn Manning) went to an abortion clinic to get her 5th abortion, the "technician" suggested that the clinic should give her a punch card so the 6th one was free, Doggett got pissed went to the truck..got a gun...and went back and shot the "technician."

As a result, Doggett did end up in prison, but she also ended up a hero of the anti-abortion religious right who provided her legal representation, support, and helped her get a reduced sentence and better treatment (she is a convicted murderer but she is housed in a low-security facility, for instance).

Somehow, this experience also turned her into a reformed Christian but with very interesting ideas and interpretations of Christianity. 

I think, in a sense, the show writers are also taking a shot at the laws and clinics that allow employees of women's health clinics to shame and try to dissuade women from getting abortions, but I might be digging a little too deep here.

3. "I Really Missed You"

As Miss Claudette is being pulled away we find out that Taystee has been returned from her brief parole. 

Returning to prison is actually fairly normal (over 70% of people either recidivate or are returned to prison on a parole violation).

When you get out you are handed a massively long list of possible parole violations and informed that if you are caught engaging in any of those activities you will be "violated" and sent back to prison.

You also are expected to find a job or continually apply for jobs until you have procured a job.

You are expected to maintain a residence free from all possible violations (yes, you can be held responsible for what the people in your living space do). Often, your parole officer will come unannounced to check your residence and sometimes they come with the police.

Just like in prison, they will sometimes tear your entire room apart and leave it a mess.

Most important, despite the fact that is almost impossible to find a job, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to find a safe and respectable residence, you are loaded with a long list of fees and costs and expected to pay them as part of a successful parole. 

I had court fees, monitoring fees (that were higher than my rent), supervision fees, the per day charges from jail (in Michigan jails can charge you a daily fee for being in jail - like you are staying at the world's worst and most dangerous hotel). 

Even more ridiculous, if you had money when you were arrested, the State can take any money you had to pay for the cost of your incarceration. In other words, any money that you would have had to pay the fees are gone and you most likely come out of prison with a minimum wage job.

When people here about recidivism stats, first of all, most of those include parole and probation violations (they are reported as if they are all new crimes but they are actually mostly technical parole and probation violations). But secondly, recidivism is high because we set emerging prisoners up for failure. 

I was a lucky exception, I made it through almost three years of parole and probation without any serious incidents (although I experienced everything that I mentioned above).

Personally, I believe a better system would:

* Start planning for successful release and reintegration from the very first day a person in incarcerated. The system should assess people's skills and potential and start training them and be preparing them for RESTORATION back into the community (not rehabilitation, we pay our debt by going to prison). 

* Stop trying to make prisoners pay back society monetarily for incarceration, being in court, monitoring, or supervision. Financial insecurity is one of the main drivers of recidivism. If you pile someone full of debt and they only have a minimum wage job, how exactly do you expect them to pay you back? 

If as a society we care about public safety, we need to start recognizing that our punishment goals are in direct conflict with our public safety goals.

We have to stop piling debt on formerly incarcerated people.

Anyway, for the purposes of the show, it is great to have Taystee back. For the good of society, it is terrible that Taystee (and all of her real counterparts) are back.

2. Misuse of Funds

After a reporter hears the NPR interview with Larry (Jason Biggs) he starts investigating why essential and recreational services are being cut-back at Litchfield despite the USFG increasing the Litchfield budget. He calls Assistant Warden Natalie Figueroa (Alysia Rainer) to find out what is going on.

I am just going to go ahead and say this is entirely a plot device. Do DOC's use money in stupid ways, yes. Could a Federal Assistant Warden embezzle massive funds over a period of years without basic Federal accounting kicking in? Highly unlikely to the point of being absurd.

Don't get me wrong, mismanagement...of course. Massive embezzlement, extremely unlikely.

1. Yoga Jones

My experience with the vast majority of the inmates that I met when I was in prison was very similar to the story of Yoga Jones' accidentally killing a kid that she thought was a deer.

Most people had NO IDEA they were capable of doing what they did to get themselves locked up and are trying to figure out how their lives went so far off track.

Many people suffer from addictions and their crime was related to either their addictive acting out behaviors or to acquiring the money to continue acting out. 

Some people knew they had problems with anger but had no idea that they could cross serious lines with people's personal safety.

A very small percentage of the people that I met in prison were hard-core, committed, love being violent criminals, inmates.

What I have concluded after much reflection is that all of us are capable of incredible kindness and extreme violence depending on our situations, opportunity, upbringings, education, and capabilities when dealing with stressors.

I am not saying that is okay for people to commit violent acts. I am saying that we should spend less time constructing monsters and more time getting people support and help (for instance if personal drug use were decriminalized and treated instead of made into a law enforcement problem, prices would be lower and there would be less violence). 

The idea that there are simply good people and bad people, after everything I have seen and experienced, just makes no sense to me anymore.

People are complicated. We all think we are the heroes of our own story and we all are shocked when we find out we are capable of committing unfortunate and even terrible acts.

When I see the signs welcoming immigrants (One Human Family) around my neighborhood and city, I try to place that sentiment in a larger context and remember that we should always first treat everyone with the dignity a human being deserves. 

Unlocking The Gates

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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 is more to blame for the failure of the relationship? Piper or Larry?" 

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

Today's book is Brian Stevenson's "Just Mercy"

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