Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S2 E9 “40 Oz. of Furlough" (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S2 E9: “40 Oz. of Furlough”

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.

Just about 10 days until the premiere of Season 5 (Can't Wait!).

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 9 "40 Oz. of Furlough"


OITNB S2 E9 "40 Oz. of Furlough" is about:

* The backstory of how Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) met, set-up, and betrayed Red (Kate Mulgrew). Also, Vee is moving her illicit operation from providing only cigarettes to now also the sale of serious drugs.

* Piper (Taylor Schilling) is furloughed for 48 hours. During her furlough, she visits Larry (Jason Biggs), attends her grandmother's visitation and funeral, and goes to visit Red's store (which turns out to be shuttered and for sale).

* Officer Mendez (Pablo Schrieber) returns to full duty at Litchfield and immediately starts cracking down causing Officer Bennett (Matt McGorry) to overreact.

* Red tries (again) to put her full gang back together again after apologizing and encounters resistance only from Big Boo (Lea DeLaria).    

* Doggett faces new charges as a result of anger management problems and finds a surprising ally in Healy (Michael Harney).

40 Oz. of Furlough refers to Piper's continuing shift from seeing herself as a society girl to embracing her criminality (which is bizarre by the way). This shift is symbolized by her choosing a 40-ounce bottle of Malt Liquor at a store instead of a bottle of wine.

5. "Mendes Is Back Bitches"

Sorry Jenji, but there is ZERO chance that the Federal DOC, no matter how corrupt their Assistant Warden was, would allow someone charged with sexual assault would be returned to be in a supervisory position over the inmate he assaulted (and consent is irrelevant in a prison context because prisoners are not capable of consent in the traditional sense).

Federal prisons are not islands they are island chains and the people in those chains answer to higher ups. All prisons have rules, even for the administration and most inmates have phone privileges and all inmates have quasi-legal grievance procedures (as I have mentioned before). 

Bennett was right that it is not legal to have someone who has yet to be adjudicated for a sexual assault be placed back in charge of the inmate that he was accused of assaulting.

I don't care if he was done with suspension or if Litchfield was having problems with staffing or really anything else. It would NEVER happen. 

4. "Shake Out That Pink" & "Nobody Likes To Live Like An Animal"

On the way to her 48-hours of freedom, Piper is given a full body search by Officer Bell (Catherine Curtain) and Bell asks her to cough harder and "shake out that pink."

Later in a discussion with SoSo (Kimiko Glenn), Leanne (Emma Myles), and Doggett (Taryn Manning), Leanne says, "Nobody likes to live like an animal."

One of the main themes of "40 Oz. of Furlough is how prison dehumanization prisoners (both through incarceration itself and also in the ways that they are treated by the administration and the CO's).

Whenever you get a visit, leave the facility, or are moved to a new facility you get strip searched and the searches are exactly that humiliating.

Yes, the CO's do often call you degrading and humiliating names and treat you like an animal or worse.

Yes, when in prison you are constantly forced into humiliating and degrading situations (often as a result of safety concerns).

It might seem like this is a good thing until you remember that over 90% of all inmates are going to return home at some point. The absolute worst thing you could possibly do is convince former inmates (like me) that we have no relationship to the rest of the human race.

There is also the other side of the problem.

Shaming and humiliating inmates make it possible for all non-inmates to feel like it is okay to deny people like me basic human rights, citizenship rights, and dignity upon return.

When you treat people like objects, label them, and reduce them to a sub-human status it makes it okay to brutalize and destroy them.

In other words, crime is wrong for the same reasons that treating criminals like sub-humans is wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right.

This might sound like PC nonsense to some of you, but in my experience, it has real world implications. Inmates return feeling isolated and apart from the rest of humanity and people treat returning citizens like they are and always will be criminals.

It is not a virtuous circle.

3. "Do You Know How Long It's Been Since I Had A Vegetable That Actually Crunched?"

Piper mentions to Larry that she hasn't had lettuce that crunched in a really long time.

Or really vegetables that you recognize at all.

I purchased and ate more tomatoes in the months after my parole than I probably ate in my last three years before prison.

Basically, prisons purchase the vegetables that nobody wanted on the open market (and cooks them in the least appetizing ways possible).

2. You Must Have A Pretty Big Fund"

Vee, who works in the commissary, mentions to Red that she must have a pretty big fund (prison bank account).

I  will give Jenji credit here because the prison gangs and extortion rings do try to keep at least one person working in the commissary at all times so that they can report the people who are the best targets for extortion.

Think of it like this, if you were stealing cars you might try to figure out which car in a neighborhood has the most resale value with the least security risk.

Extortion in prison works exactly the same way.

It makes total sense that Vee would place herself in the best position to know who had the most commissary money because most prison transactions occur between people using commissary items.

Oh, one other aside. When the Golden Girls take Red's stuff back from the Latinas in the cafeteria and leave with everything in their shirts...That is exactly how people transport most contraband.

1. "With a Butcher Knife"

Golden Girl Frieda (Dale Soules) tells the Latinas that she is in prison for cutting her husbands "member" off with a butcher knife.

You might be wondering how murders are at a low-security level facility.

Over time, with a few exceptions, you can matriculate your way from a high-level facility to a low-level facility. 

In truth, in my experience, while inmates with long sentences can certainly be dangerous, they are also the ones that hate drama the most and appreciate a quiet and orderly facility.

I don't know if they could work their way all the way down to a camp, but people doing serious time can work their way from a higher to a lower security level.

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). 

Today's Comment Question is:

"Whose Family Would You Join In Litchfield and Why?" 

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

Today's book is Maria Gottschalk's book "Caught."