Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S2 E7 “Comic Sans” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S2 E7: “Comic Sans”

As a formerly incarcerated person, I have decided to do 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.

True story, I am writing this from a hospital bed. I have been in the hospital since Monday night, I have something going on with my liver (no, I actually don't drink) and they haven't been able to figure out what it is for several days. Dedication (Just saying). 

Also, a reminder, I am not covering Season 5 (or watching it) until it is officially released by Netflix. When Season 5 starts, I will start writing contemporary recaps (and I will return to the retro pieces after I finish S5). In other words, I am not rewarding the OITNB hackers.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 2 Episode 7 "Comic Sans"

indie-music-and-television-blog-orange-is-the-new-black-season-five-logo

OITNB S2 E7 "Comic Sans" is About:

* Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) begins her cigarette business as Red (Kate Mulgrew) brings her new product to old customers

* Caputo (Nick Sandow) gives his support to Piper (Taylor Schilling) and the girl's new. newsletter and also institutes a new "shot quota" for all the CO's

* The backstory of why Cindy has become entirely un-ambitious

* The story of how Jimmy (Patricia Squire) leaves Litchfield

* More of the storylines about Fig (Alysia Reyner) and about complications from the Bennet/Daya romance (which I generally ignore)

Comic Sans is a reference to Flaca (Jackie Cruz) telling Daya (Dascha Polanco) that just because she draws a cartoon (for the prison paper) she doesn't have to do it using the comic sans font.

5. Newsflash: Visits Leave Records

I forgive Jenji Kohan her few bizarre moments but there is NO WAY Piper would meet with the reporter who Fig knows is going after her embezzled funds. She even mentions to him that she doesn't want to "fuck things up playing high stakes Harriet the Spy."

All visitors have to sign in and have identification.

In addition, many prisons require inmates to submit visitor lists and the visitors have to be cleared before you can see them. They ask questions like "what do you do for a living" etc.

I am not saying Fig is super-careful, but Piper is not that stupid, why risk it?

4. "I may be related to Mussolini on my Mothers Side"

It might not seem like it, but I really do think this is overall a very strong episode overall, but sometimes I have to wonder what Jenji is thinking.

Remember in Season One when Caputo was saying it was stupid of Healy to allow the inmates to have a board? Now we are supposed to believe that he has 100% flipped and is going to allow the inmates to have a newsletter just to get some good press for the CO's? 

Oh, and by the way, NOBODY calls CO's "Guards" (especially not inmates) for a very good reason...CO"s can never be counted on to "guard" or protect inmates.

If you have seen those commercials where the "bank monitor" informs the customers that he is not a guard, even good CO's are exactly like that.

I saw a group of guys in masks run right by a guard, run into the pool room, and attack someone with a pool cue. CO's do not risk their lives to save inmates until a CROWD of CO's show up (all employees wear panic buttons which they hit when a crisis happens) when it is usually way too late to save anyone.

Anyway, Jenji should know CO's are not guards and Piper would certainly never call them guards.

Also, some of the best parts of this episode are the prescient asides. I can't remember who said it (I think it was Bennett) said that maybe Valentine's day might not have been the best night for Caputo to give most of the CO"s the night off to see his bar band.

In truth, Caputo would be required to have the same number of staff on every shift. There are officers (known as 'floaters' generally considered too weak or too mean to have regular unit jobs) who cover when regular unit officers take time off (which usually is really bad news).

Also, I am 100% certain at some point I have called the CO's guards during these recaps too. In fairness, I would never have done it prison but I am sure I messed it up too.

3. They Call It "Compassionate Release"

After her crazy adventure sneaking away to watch Caputo's band, Jimmy gets away from the crack staff at Litchfield yet gain (She is the Alzheimers Houdini of the Federal Pen) and ends up doing a swan dive off the stage in the chapel and breaks her arm. 

Somehow, this results in them granting her a medical release. As she is leaving and the inmates are wondering at the cruelty of letting an old lady with no family, money, prospects, or memory. Red says "They call it 'compassionate release'."

Sorry Jenji but this is kind of messed up too.

There is no doubt that reentry is a disaster for many inmates, but on the whole, compassionate release is a REALLY good thing for many elder inmates. They would never grant it because an inmate with Alzheimer's had a broken arm. It is almost always granted for people too old to commit new crimes and who have a life-threatening illness.

We need more compassionate release (not less), but we should certainly be vigilant about how the system could use it in cruel and unfair ways.

2. Some Things About Prisons and Cigarettes

As I mentioned on Sunday, cigarettes are considered contraband and a controlled substance in prison but they are widely available (I was in two jails and three prisons and you could always get cigarettes if you wanted them). 

I find it hard to believe you could charge a book of stamps for one hand-rolled cigarette (that is just crazy).

Also, this would not likely be the case for selling cigarettes one at a time but most transactions around real contraband are done through "deposits" and not through trade (you have a friend on the outside deposit money in the account of the person you purchase the contraband items from).

Extortion is often paid off in this manner as well (many new inmates who seem weak but have strong family support come in and spend way too much money on commissary at first- which ultimately leads to them being extorted).

Oh, one other small detail about smoking in prison, virtually everyone knows how to make prison lighters. There are a ton of methods using commissary items. You can also make tattoo guns and burners to heat up your soups. Obviously, these are all contraband items, but people make them all the time.

1. "What Is This, Minority Report?"

It is pretty funny when Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) accuses Officer O'Neill (Joel Marsh Garland) of pulling a "Minority Report" when he gives her a ticket for being late before she is actually late.

But ticket quotas, even if not official, are real.

Generally, CO's get ticket (shot) quotas when inmates do something that pisses the CO's, the counselors, or the Administration off.

If there is a stabbing, for instance, there would be a crackdown (at the last prison I was at, there was a stabbing almost every week for the entire year I was there). 

Basically, you just really have to stay quiet during quota periods and stay the hell away from anything that would annoy the CO's. But I certainly saw some people get "written up" for a bunch of silly stuff. Playing basketball on the wrong unit's court was a pretty popular cheap ticket (yes, you were only allowed to play basketball on your own unit's court or the on the prison yard's community courts).

I was super lucky, I never got one ticket in my three years.

Unlocking The Gates

indie-music-and-television-blog-orange-is-the-new-black-season-five-dates

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).

Let's hope they figure out what is going on with my liver soon so I earn my own compassionate release.

Today's Comment Question is:

"What Is Your Favorite Line of Dialog From OITNB" 

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

Today's book is Piper Kerman's book "Orange Is The New Black"