The Betty Page of Litchfield: Orange Is the New Black S3 E1 “Mother's Day” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak Season 3 Episode 1: “Mother’s Day”

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.

One other thing, if you want to get to know my story a bit better, I wrote this long piece about growing up at the intersection of race, class, privilege, poverty, and ultimately crime in the context of Donald Trump’s recent threat to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio (it is kind of long, but I am really proud of it).

Okay, here we go, now that we have finished Season 1, Season 2, and Season 5, I find myself on Episode 1 of Season 3. Thanks to so many of you for continuing to take this journey with me.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

A Few Things About Season 3 Episode 1 "Mother’s Day”

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OITNB S3 E1 “Mother’s Day” is about:

* Several flashbacks, Nicky facing down her Mom’s narcissistic neglect, Sophia when she was a man as an expectant Father, and Sam being raised with the permanent insecurity of a Mother who was seriously mentally ill

* Litchfield is hosting a Mother’s day event and everyone is prepping to get the yard ready for all of the kids to arrive.

* Sister Ingalls and Alex return to Litchfield (Alex has a black eye from a fight in lock-up).

* Litchfield getting a new Counselor (named B. Rogers) who actually appears to be educated and competent, so, of course, Healy isn't taking it well.

* Morello trying to readjust after losing her driving gig. She has been moved to the cleaning crew, which was my job for most of my time in prison (welcome to the team Morello).

* Nicky and Boo trying to figure out how to get the Heroin that they stole from Vee back out of Litchfield to one of Boo’s contacts (so it can be sold, which seems a bit anti-Nicky since her recovery).

* Red trying to end her prison business (She and Frida seal up the tunnel) but later she figures out that her family has been relying on the funds her contraband sales have been generated (because her beloved family grocery/restaurant has closed, meaning Piper is in trouble). FYI, Red would have had to sell a TON of contraband to support her family on the outside given most prisoners are POOR (a prisoner would seem rich with lower-end poverty money on the outside).

* Finding out that poor Suzanne has been banned from being out with the children and parents on the yard which both makes sense (she did kidnap a kid who later fell out a window) but is also heartbreaking because in many ways she is arrested at the level of emotional development of a child (sad).

* Caputo trying to reform Bennet by ordering him to stay away from Daya but all after he chose not to enforce the rules (meaning he has no credibility left on this issue).

* Boo trying to talk Doggett out of being depressed about her 6 aborted children.

* The pain of children having to watch their mothers ordered to lie prone on the floor during the Mother’s day event after one of Aleida’s children goes missing.

* Maria finding out that her lover Yadriel is breaking up with her and never bringing the baby to visit again because he doesn’t want their child to deal with the trauma of seeing her Mother in prison as she emotionally matures.

Fiesta Like There’s No Manana

Doggett, who has taken over Morello’s driver job, goes shopping for the Mother’s Day event at Litchfield with CO’s Bell and Maxwell. She suggests that they purchase the discount stuff from the Cinco De Mayo leftovers including the sign with the slogan above.

Jenji and her writers did a good job covering a wide-variety of angles on the unique emotional distress Mother’s day (and most other holidays) can cause for inmates. Before I talk more about the problems exclusively faced by female inmates I should probably mention that the Michigan Department of Corrections last week made the astounding choice to require the following for all prisoner mail:

  • White Envelopes only

  • No Stickers of any kind

  • No ‘stains’ including but not limited to perfume, lipstick, oily substances, watermarks, body fluids etc.

  • Blue or black ink or lead pencil only (no marker, crayon, paint, glitter, chalk, charcoal, or colored inks)

  • No glue/paste or non-transparent tape

  • Greeting cards must be from an official vendor and contain no embellishments

Holy Mother of God. One of the only things that keep inmates going is the embellished mail. Come on MDOC, this is a brutal policy. The reason, according to the MDOC is that drugs like Suboxone can be concealed in thin strips under flaps etc. This is particularly absurd since Suboxone is a treatment drug used to help people kick drugs and could (and probably should be provided by prisons and jails).

Another thing I should probably say is that I have NEVER seen a prison host a special event like this for families and kids and I certainly have never seen them allow the kind of interactions that were happening during this episode. Visitation happens in a large room full of visitors, you are searched before and after the visit, you have to stay in your chair until you are led out after the visit (your visitors can purchase food and drinks for you from the vending machines),  and you have limited contact.

It is possible this is normal procedure at women’s prisons or at Federal women’s prisons. It would certainly be nice if they did things like this.

Okay, the Mother’s face the embarrassment of meeting with their kids behind bars and the likelihood that seeing their Mom's Will be traumatizing to them. Often they can face unique problems like an emergency during a visit (like what happened on the show) or be on a disciplinary list that prevents you from accepting a visit.

Sure we have discussed this before several times, but women’s prisons face unique problems and are often overcrowded and underfunded (especially in Michigan). In addition, Women are the fastest growing population in America’s prisons and their treatment is often awful. For example, they are frequently shackled while pregnant, DOC’s often put pregnant women in solitary confinement, and menstrual materials are often only available through the commissary list. This is why several Senator’s recently proposed the “Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act” which you can support by signing up with my friends at Cut 50 (i do actually know them, not just a colloquialism).

Things are really terrible for most everyone in America’s jails and prisons but I suspect it is even worse at women’s prisons.

“I Spank It Out, Bennett”

As you may know, I am a former addict who wrote a book about recovery and who authors a recovery blog (infrequently of late).

To be more clear, I am a sex addict with 7 years of sobriety. Sorry if that is shocking, but I have been writing about it for a few years now, so it is getting more normal for me.

As a sex addict who has spent a crazy amount of time reading research on sex addiction (so I could write my book) and being deeply involved in recovery for years, I felt compelled to respond to what Joe Caputo says to Bennett about his ‘relationship’ with Daya.

Caputo suggested that Bennett should channel his urges for sex with inmates into masturbation (something we, unfortunately, saw Caputo himself engage in after first meeting Piper during Season 1).

This seems like great advice, and compared to consensual non-consensual sex with an inmate (inmates are not capable of genuine legal consent in this situation because of the inherent power imbalance) it is certainly an improvement BUT (and this is a big but) the problem is believing you have the right to the desire in the first place.

I began truly recovering when I realized that the process of colonizing someone else’s image and turning it into something for your mind to play with IS the problem. When the object of our fantasies is a real person, our fantasies are a process of ignoring who they actually are and turning our construction of them into what we wish that they were.

In short, masturbatory fantasy is a form of objectification.

I am not saying there should be laws against fantasy, and I totally understand that there are healthy levels of fantasy, but that doesn’t change the fact that our break with ethical behavior starts at the water’s edge where we transform someone from a person with agency into a body for your use.

And, yes, sobriety from this kind of fantasy (and from masturbation) is entirely possible (after decades of being told it was only natural, this surprised me too). It is amazing how much more meaningful the concept of consent becomes when you actually have to be granted the right to be physically intimate with a partner in a place and time where you don’t exercise a dominant position over them (as either a correctional officer or just some jackass fantasizing about them).

Yes, I know mine is a radical position, but in my experience, most of my problems started by substituting fantasy for authentic intimacy and affording potential partners (or people I was attracted to) total agency over their own beings. In other words, there is something sad about this perhaps seeming radical.

Understanding Healy

Q: So, why does Sam Healy want so desperately for women to stay in traditional roles?

A: His mother was mentally ill, always unpredictable and not like a Mother should be, and as a result, Sam was always left terrified. His expectation was (and is) a reliable woman there for his needs as a child arrested forever in the body of an angry adult man.

This was A pretty great example of how just a few seconds of clever exposition, when done well, can substitute for a mountain of dialog.

Anyway, because he is emotionally a very threatened child, he certainly can’t handle a competent adult competing with him.

Enough for tonight (just finished watching the two-hour premiere of Halt and Catch Fire which IMHO is one of the best shows on television that nobody ever watches.

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).

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