"The Lip Sweater" Orange Is The New Black S6 E4 "I’m the Talking Ass”

“I’m the Talking Ass” Orange, Black, or Bleak? Season 6 E4 (Netflix)

Orange Black or Bleak 6.2.jpg

This is the 69th entry into my deep-dive on the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black (from the perspective of 2 formerly incarcerated people).

Wrote a few new things this week:

I hope you have been listening to my podcast Decarceration Nation, last week I had a discussion with Jay Ware about prison abolitionism, influences, and the upcoming August 21st Prison Strikes due to happen across the country. We are on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and now Tune-In (which I think means you can ask Alexa to “Play Decarceration Nation.” You can also find the episodes at DecarcerationNation.com.

It is probably best to look at this as two recaps of the same episode...First Kathy Morse's take and then my traditional "five things about" take.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Kathy's Take

“Satan needs to know he is not in charge”

The Puzzle pieces are slowly falling into place.

One clarification, they had this in episode 3 and I raised this issue but it’s worth repeating. Male officers are never allowed in shower rooms where female inmates are showering, even in intake or admissions.  It is all female officers in showers and bathrooms.

It’s clear that 2 of the 3 officers who worked in the camp during the riot are still suffering from what they experienced, especially the female officer.  She has all the classic signs of PTSD and trauma and really should never have been cleared to return to work, in fact, it seems to me that working in corrections should not be her career path (it's painful to watch someone struggle like that).  

I can only hope that in upcoming episodes she decides she should not have returned.

The Fantasy Inmate is sick - it’s sadistic, it’s ugly, I simply cannot wrap my mind around the twisted thoughts of the individuals who gleefully look forward to participating in this pool.  “Gamble on human lives” is an understatement and like real “fantasy football” participants these people take this seriously, are actually excited to be “invited” to participate at a cost of $100, are ecstatic that the rumors are true and that it does exist.  Their jobs are so deeply embedded and intertwined in their personal lives that there is no clear line, nothing that separates work from life. To be drafting teams based on inmates, to bet on human lives and serious events in their lives is simply sadistic. Luschek, who wants to make it more like “fantasy football” with the “draft party,” boggles my mind...does he truly understand that human lives can be seriously be harmed by this twisted misguided idea of a game, these are not professional athletes, these are human beings!  

These officers are playing games with human lives, it’s simply sick. Unfortunately, something similar does happen in real prisons, “gladiator school” where officers will bet on inmate fights. 

Just like in professional boxing, they will allow two inmates out of their individual cells to fight each other and then when it’s over and the two fighters are on their way to medical or back to their cell bloody and beaten to a pulp they will let the others on the housing unit out to go about their business as if nothing happened, the floors soaked with fresh blood. It’s brutal, it’s violent and yes it happens.

So instead of "Gladiator School," we have "Fantasy Inmate."

These ladies up in max are tough as hell, a rough bunch.  My personal experience with max at is that it is survival of the fittest, I will not sugarcoat it.  I was temporarily housed in max and could not sleep at night because I was afraid that my cellmate was going to kill me. I would only leave my cell to get medication, to go for occasional meals, commissary, or to make phone calls. 

Other than that I did not feel safe going out of my cell (my cellmate had school to attend to get her GED so she was gone during the day).  I would sit up on my top bunk all night long, nodding off because I needed sleep but too terrified to sleep.

The people who committed the most violent of crimes are housed in maximum and I was there waiting for a bed to become available in the minimum security section. There were small groups that “ran” certain tables, shower times, and telephone times. 

It’s like walking a tightrope. It’s a brutal environment and some of these women have nothing to lose because they are already doing life.  You are afraid to talk to them for fear you may say the wrong thing, with some of them you feel if they tell you to jump you will say how high because you do not want to get smacked in the face with a combination lock in a sock.

Unfortunately, I could see that happening in this episode, this is one rough crowd and I am not sure that the others displaced from the camp can save or protect each other.

I am relieved that Nicky took the deal, she did the right thing, she needed to save her own ass after the rest of them did too.  The real sadness was that Bat Mitzvah scene because now you know what she was dealing with as a child growing up, I can now see what led her to her current situation, there is a lot of women who have toxic or dysfunctional families who end up incarcerated. You worry about them when they go home, you wonder how strong they will be and if they will be able to filter out the toxicity after they get home.  

You can see the little girl in her is still hurting and you want to help her get the self-confidence she needs. You want to shake her and tell her to stop looking for her parent's acceptance, especially her father’s because he is all about nothing but himself.

Looking for work, the pain of rejection and the panic of knowing that you simply have to find something, anything.  Aleida's struggle in this episode is something that I can very closely relate to as I too am currently struggling with that myself.

Finding work after incarceration is not as easy as many think, especially for women. A recent report from the Prison Policy Initiative talks about the hurdles formerly incarcerated individuals face especially women, to read the article click here when looking for work.  

There are many jobs in construction, jobs we would refer to as “blue collar”  that are available but employers for these jobs will rarely consider even a qualified woman and that further reduces the number of possible job opportunities for females.  I am not being sexist, it’s the truth. It took me 2 years after my release to finally get a job, it was painful, it was difficult, the questions, the really probing questions even with “Ban the Box” it still happens.

I would get anxiety attacks prior to each interview.  I never hid my incarceration, in fact, I had it on my resume, the jobs that I held while incarcerated because it was important to show what I did during those 4-½ years. I had a college degree prior to my incarceration, I had a 30-year career as a paralegal with some nationally known law firms and I blew that when I embezzled money.  During my incarceration I realized that I wanted to advocate for women incarcerated upon my release, I promised them I would be their voice in the community, so I applied to social service agencies and criminal justice reform organizations after all they hire the formerly incarcerated, they are more open-minded than a traditional employer.  

You would think that with my pre-incarceration background and experience, the jobs I held while incarcerated (law library, grievance, Inmate Liaison Council) that I would have the experience that these organizations were looking for, no it did not work that way. I even had the second interview with a well-known not-for-profit organization that provides a wide variety of programs for formerly incarcerated individuals.  I went into the interview with a Vice President with a good positive attitude, I held out my hand to shake hands and introduce myself to this person and she took one look at me and said “oh no you are all wrong for this job” she never offered me a seat, she never told me why she just quickly dismissed me. I was crestfallen but even more important I was left wondering since this organization did job training, interview skills and sent their clients out on job interviews what would their reaction have been if what I experienced with this Vice President happened to a client of theirs, I am sure they would have been furious.  

So, anyway, I am well aware of the panic, the desperate need to find work and to start earning a salary because you certainly cannot collect unemployment nor social security simply because you were incarcerated. I applied for public assistance because I needed to feed myself and more importantly my then 10-year-old daughter. It was not easy.

I accepted handouts of clothing and Christmas gifts for my daughter. So I fully understand the pain of being rejected after a job interview, after numerous job interviews. It is something that they do not prepare you for when incarcerated in fact you often imagine getting out and hitting the ground running, that everything is going to quickly fall into place but it doesn’t.

The rejection hurts, it’s painful yet at the same time you have to figure out how to support yourself, so I understand when Aleida is hit with this convincing sales pitch, when the women says to her just want she needs to hear, things that will build up her confidence, that will make her feel she is really worth something, that she has the skills and will be a huge success with selling this product, with how much money she can earn and you jump on it because you NEED a job, regardless of what it is doing.

The job I finally found 2 years after my release is no more, after 2 years they downsized and I was let go, it’s been over 8 months and I am looking for work again, still doing those interviews, still thinking I clinched that job only to get the rejection email days later.  It’s hell. My unemployment ran out and to make ends meet I have taken a job working for a cosmetics manufacturer on the production line, assembling and packaging products for $10 an hour. It’s back-breaking work, it pays less than my unemployment but I need the money.

Each and every night I apply for jobs because eventually, I will get that “dream job” because I am worth something! As is with each and every individual who was ever incarcerated and who is looking for a job, for a second chance to prove to everyone that they can do it, that they have changed, that they are worth that opportunity, that they do indeed have something to offer. 

My advice to you, if you are in a similar situation is, never give up, never give in.

Okay, now Taystee,

I am so relieved that the guard who I felt was such a bitch to everyone else was a friend to you even if it was a one-shot deal.  My heart goes out to you, to be sitting there day in and day out wondering when the investigators will finally interview you.

Or When they will want to hear your side of the story only to find out just when it is finally your turn and you finally are talking with your public defender that nobody really cares about the truth.  

I completely understand the pressure to pin this on someone, to have it all placed on your shoulders, they need to wrap up this totally screwed up and inadequate investigation, damn this is crazy.

Girl I am cheering for you, not the first time you have faced some serious odds against you,

Stay strong!

5 Things About Season 6 Episode 4 “I’m the Talking Ass”

 Netflix

Netflix

Lots of stuff going on in this episode.

I want to take a second to remind everyone that as much personal growth as Caputo has been demonstrating, most of the events of this season would never have happened without Caputo’s poor decisions and absentee management.

5. “24-Hour Fluorescent Lighting

Nicky makes a complaint about being insomnia and 24-hour fluorescent lighting. This is a real thing (there was even a 9th Circuit case (Keenan v. Hall)  about it and which held for the plaintiff. Despite this ruling 24-hour lighting is still a thing, particularly in administrative segregation, mental health blocks, and in suicide watch cells.

I experienced a few nights of this myself in the Macomb County jail (something I have written about in depth before).

It makes you feel like you are never alone, never safe, and never - for some strange reason - quiet (there is an electric hum from fluorescent lights). The end result is that you never really get good sleep. In fact, the use of primarily fluorescent lighting (a cost-saving measure) is incredibly problematic in itself.

Regardless, what Nicky is sharing here is a real prison problem with us here.

4. Some Things Are Not Forgivable

Speaking of Nicky, she, like so many of the other inmates, is struggling with being induced to tell prosecutor’s that Red was responsible for Desi Piscatella’s death.

This is particularly devastating for Nicky because her real parents were always fighting over who "had to" take responsibility for her while Red was always there regardless of what she had done, even after she had done things that were “unforgivable.”

Nicky, unlike many of the other girls (like Piper, for instance), found a way to let Red know that she was taking a deal that would legally implicate Red...But, eventually, Red forgives her after she has an epiphany about how brutal (and slanted towards facing pleas) the plea bargaining process can be.

That is the real lesson here.

Prosecutors have WAY too much power to leverage testimony but also use it in ways that clearly demonstrate that they care a lot about convictions but care very little about truth.

The brutality of the plea bargain process is almost impossible to convey, as a defendant you have very little leverage (aside from the inconvenience and cost of your eventual trial) to bargain with and because charging documents allow prosecutors to charge you with multiple parts and multiple counts of the same crime, they can almost always threaten to put you in prison for decades or even hundreds of years if you refuse to take the plea.

And remember, while the Litchfield inmates are already in prison, for most folks being faced with a plea, the alternative is to stay locked in jail while you await adjudication of your case. Jail is often a particularly brutal place (as I have mentioned before, just in the Macomb County Jail...one of many jails in Michigan...18 people have died since 2012).

Most people facing plea bargain decisions often can’t afford bail, risk losing their jobs or their children if they remain incarcerated during pre-trial, and face brutality and extortion in jail.

For those people facing pleas from the inside, they are almost certainly being tried on evidence and testimony (often incredibly questionable) from other inmates (many of whom are informants in the first place).

I don’t mean to upset anyone, but this really is how our legal system functions. I don’t mean prosecutor’s sit around a table and decide in advance how many convictions have to happen in advance of charging actual people...But the system is about attributing blame NOT delivering justice.

Prosecutors are elected and people want crimes addressed, they don’t seem to care quite as much about how the sausage is made (or how it is labeled guilty).

Over 95% of all cases are resolved by plea bargain. This is not because over 95% of defendants are guilty of everything that they were charged with, it is because the COSTS of facing the entire weight of everything they were charged with is much riskier than accepting come charges they were guilty of in combination with some charges they were not.

This is also about one of the big themes of season 6, how the system pits inmates against each other so that they can't focus on addressing their needs or systemic injustice as a unified or collective force (see Fantasy Inmate).

3. “It doesn’t matter...it probably feels like it should”

I mean, it isn’t at all their fault, but public defenders really do suck,

I am sure I have shared the story with you before of when I was looking down the docket waiting for one of my court appearances and noticed that many of the public defenders had over 30 cases on the docket?

Let me try to explain how important this is:

The vast majority of people cannot afford attorneys. Think about what would happen if you were arrested right this moment and an attorney told you they would only take your case if you could pay a $10,000 or more retainer?

I had a case that was plea bargained (poorly IMHO) and it cost me $15,000.

So, for most people who don’t have a ton of money lying around or who aren’t willing to sacrifice their family, they have to use public defenders.

Prosecutors have MUCH larger budgets, so they don’t have to assign 30 cases to each attorney

Prosecutors have a built-in enforcement and investigation arm (the police) and partners all over the world (many tech companies will share data and information and even jail and prison phone providers frequently share recorded calls with prosecutors).

Prosecutors can count on decades of tough on crime media propaganda (Law and Order, CSI, The Closer, NCIS and a million other shows) and a public primed to punish citizens and to be skeptical of defendant's constitutional rights (Fox News, HLN, True Crime, Lifetime).

It is very hard to imagine a world where a public defender, even if they were the Clarence Darrow of public defenders, has much of a chance. Prosecutors know this and that is probably why there is so much prosecutorial misconduct these days (hubris).

For most folks, what happens to Taystee is probably not dissimilar from their own experience with the criminal justice system. As her PD put it:

“This is so much bigger than you...The only thing worse than being the scapegoat is being the scapegoat while the world is watching.”

2. “Skin masks covering our pain”

I am glad that Dixon stood up for his “gay” friends Donuts and Doggett at Hershey Park...But, pretty sure when you are willingly hanging out with an escaped fugitive inmate (I mean Dixon can’t even claim ignorance because you worked at the prison where she was incarcerated) you would do ANYTHING you could do to avoid a fight.

This was just fan-service here. Nice and all, but totally ridiculous. No way Dixon would get in a fight or do anything to bring attention to his abetting of an escaped “felon.”

All those two homophobic meat socks had to do was go to any officer in the park and claim they were assaulted and Dixon and Donuts would be wearing orange, pink, blue, or tan outfits just like most of the rest of the cast.

Just saying.

1. “You don’t have anything, how could you lose something in here?”

When Officer Ward comes to get Taystee for one of her meetings she points out that inmates don’t have much to lose in their cells (especially not when or if they are in administrative segregation).

It is true that inmates do not have much, but because you have so little every single thing that you have becomes much more important. Most incarcerated people call their bunk (and whatever things are in their “area of control”) their “house” and treat it accordingly.

Once picture or book or letter means so much more when it is the only connection you have to a life that wasn’t behind bars and electrified fencing.

I always thought about my house a bit like a Japanese Garden...Every day I would try to perfect my space. I might not have much, but what I did have I worked on perfecting.

Regardless, it is not uncommon for CO’s to belittle or even destroy inmates belongings during sweeps or especially when they decide to do random inspections or to toss your cell.

Unlocking The Gates

 Netflix

Netflix

New recaps will come out once a week (usually on Sunday mornings).

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).

Leave comments, let us know what you thought! We will answer any questions you have (that are civil).