“Trapped In The Elevator” Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S7 E6 (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S7 E6: “Trapped In The Elevator”

OITNB Final Season Hero 1.jpg

Several years ago, I decided to do a deep-dive into the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black to help explain things that folks watching the show who don’t have a background including incarceration might not catch. Seven seasons later, I am still rolling.

I am not a woman, which is a huge weakness of the coverage. I do consult with friends who did time in women’s facilities and try to ensure accuracy.

I did time in a state and not a federal facility, another huge weakness.  I try to consult with friends who did time in federal facilities and try to ensure accuracy.

If you haven’t been listening to the Decarceration Nation Podcast our most recent guest was John M. Eason, author of the book “Big House On The Prairie.”

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5. “Skeletons Will Come Back To Haunt You”

Cindy is going home (hopefully, by now you know how absolutely ridiculous I think this is), her bunky is Frieda and they have a totally trashed room (which is just not allowed, especially in a max facility), but even more crazy, in PLAIN VIEW are two bottles of BLEACH on the counter in the cell.

WTF

You don’t have full access to bleach in prison, you can’t keep bottles of bleach on your desk in prison. Bleach is literally a poison and corrosive. Even when you are cleaning, you have access to bottles of cleaner that you can check out. If you are working as a janitor you can go in the supply cabinet with an officer and put bleach (or something else) in your mop bucket. 

But you CANNOT have huge bottles of bleach just sitting on your desk in your cell. 

I went back and looked like four times, that is just insanity.  Someone had to actually place those bottles in Frieda and Cindy’s cell which means it was intentional. I get they are selling the story that Frieda isn’t cleaning her cell, but what in the world?

Oh, so Cindy is free, but Taystee decided to get her revenge using her access to Cindy’s file to send a letter to Cindy’s daughter both telling her that Cindy is her real Mom and also, I suspect, the story of Cindy setting Taystee up for the “murder” of Desi Piscatella.

I don’t mind this storyline, Taystee would probably do something like this, it doesn’t even feel fake. I am much more shocked by this notion that Taystee, or any person incarcerated, has full access to the warden’s files at all hours (even when the warden isn’t in the office). Sure, there is also the problem of Taystee even having the job, but let’s not pretend any of this is possible (even at a privately run facility).

The goodbye between Cindy and Suzanne was awesome, I have a sad feeling that Suzanne is going to be left behind and without hope at the end of this show. On the one hand, this is sad because Suzanne is one of my favorite characters but it is also accurate, there are so many tens of thousands of folks trapped in incarceration as a result of mental illness today.

4. “The Halfway Houses are all at Capacity”

The random counselor added to this scene was right, halfway house spaces are incredibly limited across the country, in 2017 the President severed ties with many of the contractors providing halfway house beds and while the First Step Act created more pathways from prison to halfway houses, there still are not enough spaces. 

One of the most cynical takes on this is that it is easy to push for reform when you know reform will be limited on the back end by the lack of bed spaces for folks coming out of prison (often release is conditional on a person having a place to stay).

Anyway, this conversation between Cindy and the counselor was a real thing, the primary thing counselors do is “help” people in prison plan for release. Now, this doesn’t always go well, for instance, despite all of our planning, my counselor had me released to the wrong county. I had been charged in two counties, but he had me released to the county I did not and had never lived in (that was awesome). I had to spend my first day out of prison running to a county where I had never lived, and where I was not planning on living.  I had to be at a parole office mere hours after I was released and had no idea where I was going (and you don’t have a phone or GPS when you get out of prison). Let me just say it was quite an adventure and took several weeks to straighten out.

It is also crazy to think that Litchfield Max would just discontinue psych treatment (pretty sure that would be stopped by the courts on constitutional grounds). That said, everyone who has been incarcerated is familiar with what we all know as the “Thorazine Shuffle.” It is very typical for “treatment” to consist of everything from being doped to the gills to being placed in solitary confinement. 

I am pretty sure Warden Ward wouldn’t have the political capital to suggest that savings from closing the psych ward would be reinvested in the prison. In other words, you would have to believe that Linda cared more about Ward remaining warden than she does about the millions of dollars in money she was trying to save by closing the psych ward. I just don’t know.

3. “Do You Need To Find Some Other Peas To Pod With?”

Look, after all these seasons, I frankly am exhausted with the ongoing and mostly manufactured relationship issues between Piper and Alex.

Is Alex suggesting Piper hook up with someone outside because she is worried about Alex or because she wants to hook up with McCullough? No idea, but it sure seems like we are going to find out.

I have a hard time imagining that the core of the problem with Piper’s acting out is that either a) she really wants to be back in prison or b) she really misses physical contact so much she needs to get busy with someone other than Alex (who would be what she misses in prison). The core reason Piper is getting high with Cal and doing idiotic things is that a) She is Piper and b) The writers make her do all kind of insane things for no reason and always have.

Look, most people returning from prison who have a place to live, have a job, and get to talk with their incarcerated loved one EVERY SINGLE DAY via contraband cell phone would be considered LUCKY. There are so many REAL reentry struggles and problems that happen to tens of thousands of people every single day in this country that you would think the writers would have more imagination? 

This also raises a separate issue. 

When I was on supervision, I had my cell phone confiscated and the memory card searched once. Supervision officers have access to your phone anytime they want to. As the Supreme Court has put it, people on supervision have no right to be on supervision, which means officers can search your property at virtually any time. 

In other words, it would be really risky to talk with Alex on your personal cell phone. Remember, if Piper got caught she would be sent back to prison and Alex would get NEW CHARGES for possessing a contraband cell phone. 

I get that some of this is to allow the characters in the show to interact, but part of the point of the show is also to introduce the public to how prisons really are and while this certainly might happen in real life, what wouldn’t happen is how careless all of these folks are about contraband cell phones.

2. “Dibs on Eckhart Tolle”

Spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle is someone that many people read in prison. My first, and only, contact with Eckart Tolle was while I was in prison myself. 

It should not be surprising that in a place where there's very little hope that incarcerated people often turn to books for spiritual guidance. It is not hard to find religious texts, books by spiritual leaders, and books on personal improvement.

Oh, also, lots of stuff that seemed sketchy, like people really love astrology and pseudo conspiracy theory literature. People read a lot of Steven King and James Patterson. Believe it or not, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones are also big draws. 

I might revisit this later if any readers want to suggest books they remember from when they were inside I can start compiling a list (Leave a comment).

It is still interesting that Caputo is running the restorative justice classes, as we are reminded when former officer Fisher outs Caputo on social media at the end of this episode, former-warden Caputo has a very troubled history at Litchfield. I have argued in previous seasons that it would be crazy to consider Caputo a heroic character because of all of the terrible things he has been involved in. The funny thing is that Caputo did do everything former-officer Fisher outed him over. 

Also, it is very unlikely that a teacher at the prison would be allowed to enter prisoners cells. Prisons operate on a system of “call-outs” designed to bring people in prisons to the person who wants to see them. Cindy would be called to Caputo (and not the other way around).

Side note, as much as I have issues with Caputo, I am not sure it makes sense to compare him with R, Kelly. (Trapped in the Closet).

1. “I'm pregnant”

<Note to readers: Whoops, yes, I am an idiot, and I missed that this was a flashback…apologies in advance, I think I must have been suffering from a blow to the head or a lack of sleep…thanks to the Reddit readers who straightened me out. It took like 90 recaps, but I have finally lost my mind>

Huh?

I know it hasn’t been that long since the riot, but how in the world is Maria Ruiz pregnant?

I mean at least when Lorna got pregnant we knew the correctional officers had allowed her, in essence, to have a conjugal visit in the visiting room after her marriage. 

How in the world is Maria pregnant?

*** Okay, as a result of me being an idiot, I am editing here ***

Unlocking The Gates

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

Lots has happened since last season, I am now a policy analyst at Safe and Just Michigan, a consultant with #cut50, and still the host of a podcast. I am still 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.

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