Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S5 E3 “Pissters” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S5 E3: “Pissters”

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.

Tonight is going to be pretty fun, lots of Criminal Justice Reform topics to cover from this episode.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 5 Episode 3 "Pissters"

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Season 5 Episode 3 "Pissters" is about:

 * The backstory of Linda (Beth Dover) from her time in her college sorority. She ends up taking advantage of the death of her big sister (which she had a hand in) to become She also changes her prison name to Amelia Von Barlow and starts to play inmates off of each other.

 * Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) and Maureen (Emily Althaus) leave the infirmary as Suzanne begins to cope with the drastic changes in her routine and come to grips with Poussey's death.

 * Red (Kate Mulgrew) starts taking speed accidentally and becomes manic in her ongoing search for dirt on Piscatella (Brad William Henke) and or information about Wes Driscoll. She also teams up with Blanca Flores (Laura Gomez) in her quest for insider information that can protect her from Piscatella.

 * Judy King (Blair Brown) tries unsuccessfully to escape from Litchfield and from the riot ultimately getting captured by the Nazi’s and Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman)

 * Big Boo (Lea Delaria) finds Caputo’s suit and meets Linda, this causes her great joy and results in one of the funnier strutting scenes ever scene in OITNB history.

 * Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) starts to come to understand that she loves Morello (Yael Stone) but that Morello is incapable of loving her back (because crazy).

 * Team Taystee (Danielle Brooks and the rest of the African-American ladies) are told that the Management and Correction Corporation wants to hear their demands. Ultimately, they decide that they need to poll the entire prison population before presenting demands.

 * Flaritza (Jackie Cruz and Diane Guerrero) start a food fight and work on getting their message about fashion in prison out to the public.

 The title “Pissters” was what Linda’s sorority big sister said when she wanted Linda to stop playing suck and blow and accompany her outside to pee. Of course, Linda abandoned her to go back to having fun and the end result was that she froze to death (seriously).

5. “Hey Heat Miser”

I actually laughed out loud when I heard Blanca call Red “Heat Miser” (I remembered the heat miser song from watching “The Year Without Santa Claus” as a kid). Blanca is totally right here, Red does look like Heat Miser. If you don’t get the reference, start watching the video above at 2:18.

 I also continue to find it odd that right after Blanca gives her “all natural energy supplements” Red dives right into being addicted to speed. Remember that Red has literally built her entire persona and crew around keeping people sober.

 Finally, last week I mentioned that I found it out of character for Red to “Queer Shame” Piscatella. Apparently, Piper (Taylor Schilling), Alex (Laura Prepon), and Nicky agree. They call her out for it too and Red’s best answer is that she is only talking about “Man Gays.” I have to object that Red’s has been written entirely out of character so far this year.

4. “You Have Interior White Privilege, You Look Like You Have Too Much To Live For”

Alex says this about Linda while Linda is trying to figure out how to fit in.

Piper starts out wanting to mentor Linda but she quickly learns that Linda’s all about trading in on or abandoning friendships in order to move up in the world.

Just in this one episode, Linda abandons Piper and Alex to get in tight with Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel) and then abandons Maria to get in tight with Big Boo (Lea DeLaria).

Of course, the problem here is that in prison, people remember being slighted. Linda might have protection from Boo now, but if she pushes things too far she will be all alone and facing some serious music.

In prison, you can be whoever you want to be as long as you can back it up (not sure Linda can, no matter how good she is at manipulating people and situations).

I guess what I am saying is that she really does look like she has too much to live for which also means she has things to lose. Those things can come back to bite her, and I suspect that they will.

3. “CO’s Taylor and Rice Reporting for Duty”

One of the major themes of season five is reversals (like abused becoming abusers or people without power becoming powerful)

Angie Taylor (Emma Myles) and Angie Rice (Julie Lake) decide that they will become CO’s. Their plan is to wear CO uniforms and then go around enforcing their new power by de-panting inmates.

I have to agree with Taystee here that the meth-heads are “so stupid.”

2. “Well, Democracy is Bullshit”

Taystee makes this statement after finding out that the results of the Litchfield poll put arresting CO Bayley at number nine on the list of demands (understandably).

But, in all honesty, the final list covers a lot of important criminal justice reform ground. Here is the final list (I am adding in articles that explain why these issues are important as well):

1. Proper Training of the CO”s (This is a real problem in private prisons).

2. Reinstatement of the GED program (lack of programming is a huge problem and very little training gets people ready for life after prison).

3. Better Health Care (Taystee calls for Health Care provided by real doctors, yup this is a huge problem too at private prisons and at women’s prisons - I personally experienced getting treated for MRSA by only nurses).

4. Conjugal visits. We certainly didn’t have them but this was not an issue that I was particularly concerned with (I am sure it is important to married couples).

5. Amnesty for all prisoners providing there are no hostage casualties (this would have been my number one concern personally).

6. Ending Body Cavity Searches (I covered this in Episode 2) and the use of Solitary Confinement as punishment (also a huge problem, in fact, I have seen stats that suggest between 80,000 to 100,000 people are in solitary at any particular time, it is also a huge problem in women’s prisons)

7. More jobs and better pay (As prison populations have skyrocketed it created a jobs crunch, given the massive costs prisoners accumulate being incarcerated this would be a huge help to prisoners and to their families - and let us not forget the high costs of phone calls, commissary, and other fees).

8. Access to the internet - this would certainly have been nice, but aside from fully walled off email providers, I have not heard of prisons providing access to the internet.

9. CO Bayley arrested and tried for murdering Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley).

10. Flaming Hot Cheetos and Takis, Tampons, and more nutritional foods (I have talked before about how bad the food is in prison but the sparse availability of tampons is a huge problem for women’s prisoners as is the cost of tampons).

In other words, despite some short-term thinking and selfishness from inmates like the meth-heads, they came up with a pretty good list.

Alison said when discussion creating their list of demands that, “we can do this two ways, as if we were animals, like how they treat us...or like we civilized human beings, like how we want them to treat us.” I would suggest that they, with the exception of flaming hot Cheetos and Takis, did it like civilized human beings (which is important given the brutal treatment of the CO’s and the many diverse agendas of the many cliques of inmates).

I recently had a pretty deep conversation with a former women’s prisoner who was angry that I was giving cover to Orange Is the New Black. For her, the show turned her experiences into entertainment for the masses.  She was also very angry that oftentimes women, like her, feel excluded in discussions of criminal justice reform.

I want to honor her feelings and listen to her voice. It is really important to include the voice of women and solving mass incarceration is not possible if we leave people behind or consider the job done when leaving anyone behind.

I do think that OITNB works pretty hard to expose some important ideas to the general public, I try to use the show as a springboard to discussions about criminal justice reform, life on the inside, and to educate people who haven’t been to prison about the challenges that formerly incarcerated people face. But I try to be critical when it is called for and to call out the show's mistakes.

I have freely admitted since the beginning that there are two weaknesses to my coverage: I was not in a woman’s prison and I was in a state prison (not a federal camp). I apologize for any mistakes I made and I am open to hearing criticisms of the show from anyone who has done time.

1. “Until Bayley is in Chains”

Taystee says this to clarify her only ambition for Litchfield’s demands. This is kind of ironic because in most cases, this is exactly the kind of attitude society has to people who have been arrested and are facing trial (as everyone in Litchfield would have personally experienced).

As I mentioned earlier, reversals of ethical position seem to be one of the biggest themes of Season 5 and Taystee’s position is no exception. Taystee has in many ways taken the position of an aggrieved victim of crime.

Baley (Alan Aisenberg) is yet another character put into a situational reversal. He absolutely killed Poussey but he also never in a billion years intended to kill her. Just like so many people I met in prison, he has that look of someone who had no idea that they were even capable of killing someone until it was too late.

I absolutely believe that he deserves to serve time for what he did, he was careless with his power and chose to continue to do his job despite having little to no training. The Management and Corrections Corporation should also be charged (this for some reason reminds me of Big Pharma’s complicity in the opioid crisis).

At the same time, Bayley absolutely had no intention to kill anyone. He is the guy who hit someone too hard in a barfight only to find out later that the punch just happened to kill the target of his punch. Bayley deserves to be punished, but he is not the person Taystee thinks he is. Way too often we confuse justice with revenge. Way too often we confuse negligence with intent. And way too often, we apply cruelty where compassion should be applied instead.

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:

"What is the most important thing you have learned from Season Five so far?" 

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

Today's book is Piper Chapman's book "Orange Is the New Black."