“Puffy Head”: Orange Is the New Black S4 E2 “Power Suit” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S4 E2: “Power Suit”

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 (a really deep dive, as this is my 51st recap).

If you have not seen all of my recaps, here is a link to the complete guide.

If you are a fan of the show, you should help me in supporting “Dignity For Incarcerated Women Act” in the US Senate and House of Representatives (ensuring that women prisoners have free access to sanitary napkins, aren’t put in solitary when pregnant, and aren’t shackled when pregnant etc.).

Contact Your Senator

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If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Some Things About Season 4 Episode 2 “Power Suit”

Netflix

Netflix

OITNB S4 E2 “Power Suit” is about:

* The backstory of Maria who grew up with a father who was involved in a political movement built around American’s proud of being from the Dominican Republic but who was also, using that political movement to create a drug empire. His movement and his ideological purity both failed and Maria ended up connecting with a Mexican rival drug dealer (named Yadriel) causing her to turn her back on her Dominican heritage.

This becomes relevant to the OITNB storyline because with all the new arrivals (which were prompted by the fact, as we find out later in 4.2, that MCC gets 30k per head per year for every prisoner that they house) the Dominicans have become a majority in Litchfield.

One of the new arrivals is a woman named Sankey who is a racist, she gets mad that Blanca wouldn’t change the channel on the television in the common room so she throws Blanca down a flight of stairs. Maria unites the Dominicans and they attack Sankey en masse (in true prison fashion).

* Cindy beefing with her new cube mate Allison Abdullah. Allison basically refuses to follow any and all of the time-honored rules of Litchfield and insults Cindy’s Jewish heritage.

* Red dealing with her new bunkie who snores and giving Piper some good advice that Piper, as usual, entirely misunderstands and misapplies.

* Piper dealing with her new bunkie who is incredibly annoying, ultimately, because she has decided she is now a gangster, she hires her bunkie to pretend to be her muscle (after her bunky leg presses her bunk over and over with Piper still in it). I really hate irrationally “tough” Piper.

* Caputo starting his often corrupting and always depressing relationship with Linda from accounting. Caputo also tries to convince everyone that he is still a nice guy and that everything is MCC’s fault, not his fault. all while enjoying the benefits from his new life as Director of Human Services.

Caputo also comes up with a scheme to hire veterans at CO”s to increase his available security force by including the abandoned houses behind the facility as a free housing benefit for new CO’s.

* Daya and Aleida coming to grips with the arrest and likely sentencing of Caesar on drug charges and assaulting officers (Caesar was watching both of their kids).

* Judy King being given the royal treatment by MCC including a private room, a single roommate (Yoga Jones), and special privileges. When asked who she wants for a roommate, King says she doesn’t want any fatties, Nebraskan’s, or anyone with too much hair.

* The beginnings of the fight to free Sophia from “protective custody.” Sister Ingalls asks Caputo, during a full-prison town hall-style meeting, why Burset is gone, Gloria calls home and tells her son to inform Sophia’s ex-wife that she is in the SHU, and Crystal (Sophia's ex-wife) confronts Caputo in the parking lot.

Towel Etiquette

There were a whole bunch of etiquette questions raised as the new inmates arrived at Litchfield (remember they used to make all new inmates spend time in segregated rooms until they learn the rules and adjust

This “quarantining” of new inmates to acculturate them was common practice in all of the jails and prisons in which I was incarcerated. In the jails I was in, you spent a week in a separate block until you had acculturated and a bunk opened for you in one of the normal blocks and in the Michigan prison system every inmate spends, at least, their first month in a separate facility called the RGC (known affectionately as “quarantine”).

Apparently, because of the sheer volume of new inmates, they were all immediately introduced into the general population with very little attention to placement or security (pretty obviously a recipe for disaster).

As I have suggested before, taking a week and just watching and learning all of the social conventions, which are different in every facility, is a really important survival tool. Stephanie Hapakuku would 100% be in trouble for just assuming she could air out her towel using parts of the upper bunk structure (you never touch someone’s ‘house’ without permission) and her doing leg presses using Piper’s bunk without Piper’s permission (and while Piper was still asleep) would be totally out of bounds.

Of course, as with everything in prison, Piper would have enforced her displeasure on her new bunky.

"Ain’t No Jew"

Alison Abdullah, on the other hand, goes WAY over the line by openly ignoring and subverting common cube rules, calling out Cindy as a fake Jew, and most importantly by going to the CO’s to enforce her interpretation of the rules.

You are expected to deal with your own problems in prison, going immediately to the CO’s to resolve a dispute in your own favor would have you labeled as a snitch from day one and being labeled as a snitch is a really bad thing for any inmate (much less a new inmate).

It is entertaining and cute that this starts to resolve out as a practical joke war (Alison leaves a pop set to explode in Cindy’s face in the cube) but anyone coming in breaking all the cube rules, mocking anyone who tries to inform her of the rules, and going to the CO”s would turn the whole cube against any newcomer (and as I have mentioned before, your best defense in your cube is the solidarity of the people in your cube).

In addition, Cindy is right, she is bigger and stronger and does have more and more powerful friends. Allison, in most prisons, would be treated for her behavior much in the same way that Sankey was treated by the Dominicans.

Seriously, I don’t know who the prison consultants are on the show, and I know it seemed inoffensive and funny, but in prison what Allison did would actually have pissed people off.

Probably also worth mentioning here that Cindy was raised by a strictly religious father who she rebelled against and who she resented.

Puffy Head

At one point, one of the new CO’s calls Cindy “Puffy Head" (referring to her hair, probably racist and also personally insulting).

Now, I am not saying this wouldn’t happen, it could because CO’s are often unprofessional and dangerous.

However, the most abusive and rude CO’s are almost always weeded out of working in the units and put either on duty watching people in the yard or they are moved into administrative roles. The reason for this is that everyone benefits when the units are quiet and orderly. Squeaky Wheel CO’s can incite violence and anger and good unit CO’s keep the calm.

Long Lines

Another outcome of the overcrowding would be long lines for the phones and showers (just like the showed during the episode).

In most jails and prisons, inmates have limited and specific times when they can use the phones (usually during any yard time and in the evenings before counts). When you have access to the phones in an overcrowded facility, you usually have to wait in a long line for one of the few available phones. All phone calls are limited to 15 minutes (at least they are in Michigan), so everyone in front of you in line is going to get a 15-minute call (usually a CO is there to ensure that every inmate only makes one call but it is commonly accepted practice).

Now, that said, if someone in line is connected, and the CO’s don’t intervene, those people might make several calls.

I always tried to figure out when the least busy and most safe times were to do everything and would plan my days around those times. In other words, I would get up super early or late to take a shower (never at night, especially not late at night) and I would only make phone calls when there was light traffic.

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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