Orange Is The New Black: Educating or Fantasizing the Criminal Justice System

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers from Season 4 of Orange is The New Black 

Season 5 of Netflix’s hit series Orange is The New Black (OITNB) will be released this Friday, June 9th. YAY! If you aren’t obsessed with series yet, this upcoming season will definitely hook you in.

I decided to re-watch the whole series to prepare for the new season. Unlike some other shows I watch, OITNB does not centre solely around a comical and/or purely entertainment theme. The series has tackled important social issues, like mental illness, LGBTQ+ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the American Prison system. Not to mention, it has shed light into a variety of crimes, the intent and cause behind the crimes, racial issues, class divides, and sexual orientation and preference.

Even though OITNB does an incredible job combining both drama and social justice into the series, it is still only a TV show. That means that any conflicts within the show might be exaggerated or even made up. Just to attract a larger viewer rating. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean the topics discussed should be taken lightly either. OITNB may be a fictional show, but the social issues that they focus on are very real.

Here are some things we might see in Season 5:

1. RIP Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley)

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Am I the only one still mourning the loss of Poussey????? Not only was she sweet, sensitive, funny, passionate, supportive, cute, the list can go on… BUT, she cared. She cared about her friends, family, strangers, goals, and social issues. AND, her death hit so close to some of the racial inequalities our world is still experiencing. She WAS the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement on the show. Her final words, “I can’t breathe,” mimicked the exact words of Eric Garner, before he was murdered by police. Garner was racially profiled, suspected of selling single cigarettes (Is this even a crime wtf?), and put into a chokehold until he died by American officers. It was almost unbearable to watch this exact re-occurance take place on OITNB with Poussey.

Based on how Season 4 ended, I think the inmates will finally revolt against the correctional officers!! How this story line will play out, I have no idea.

2. Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Dogget and Charlie Coates

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Pennsatucky is a character I grew to love throughout the seasons. So, it broke my heart to see her sexually assaulted this season by Charlie Coates (The officer seen above). The whole situation was so disheartening and complicated. First, both parties claimed to have liked each other. Coates admitted that he loved Dogget right before he committed the crime. What makes everything worse is that he holds a position of power. The only reason Dogget did not report Coates was because she knew no one would believe her, since she is a prisoner. This misuse of power is absolutely devastating to watch. Dogget might be a prisoner, but she is still a human and should have been treated as such.

Season 4 ended with a passionate kiss between the two (Ugh). Coates told Dogget that he wanted to quit his job, so that he can be romantically involved with her. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what exactly happens with this relationship.

3. Suzanne Warren “Crazy Eyes” and Maureen Kukudio

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Suzanne represents a slew of mentally ill inmates on OITNB. She is an extremely important character because through her, we can see the lack of aid, acceptance, and tolerance given to people with disabilities and illnesses in correctional facilities. How Crazy Eyes and other mentally ill characters are treated by officers is beyond disappointing. When these characters are seen as a liability, they are granted “compassionate releases,” thrown in the psych ward for “their own protection,” or forced upon their friends to take care of them. Poussey was trying to defend Suzanne when she was murdered. If the system had more compassion, knowledge, and programs for mentally ill inmates, like Suzanne, murders like that of Poussey’s could be prevented.

Suzanne and Kukudio are another prison couple that ended on complicated terms in Season 4. Suzanne, after being forced by officers, bet up Maureen to the point where she had to be taken to the medical ward. After trying to suffocate herself, so that she could feel what it’s like “not to breathe,” Suzanne ended up in medical right next to her ex-girlfriend. Will they rekindle their love in the medical ward? Will it be an awkward recovery for the both of them? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Only a few more days until season 5 of Orange Is The New Black is Released on Netflix!

 

 

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How “The Bell Jar” Helped Me Acknowledge My Mental Illness

While decluttering my laptop the other day, I stumbled upon this passage I wrote. I have no idea when or why I wrote it. Whenever I’m in a deep state of anxiety or depression, I have absolutely no recollection of that moment. I must’ve written this passage when I was in one of those states. I read The Bell Jar 3 years ago, at a time when my anxiety was at its worst. This book changed my life – as you can see from the passage below.

Mental illness is a touchy subject. No one wants to acknowledge having any type of illness because of the implications and stigmas that come with it. Many people, including myself, are often in denial when symptoms of certain mental illnesses arise. I do not want to be classified as “sick” and neither does anyone else. Since socially constructed ideas of sickness often depict individuals requiring treatment, mental illnesses are perceived as such. Yet, the only treatment most people suffering from a mental illness needs is the acknowledgement that they are suffering and that it is okay and perfectly normal. After much research and openness of my anxiety, I have realized I am not alone. I feel comfort knowing that many individuals, including some of my best friends, experience and understand the same difficulties I face. I do not wish mental illness on anyone, but the bond that I feel with others who have mental health conditions is indescribable.

Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” spoke to me like no other book I have read. I receiving the same university degree as her and have the same career goals as she did. I hope that I can impact and help those suffering, like she was able to help me. Her suicide touched me as if it were my own. The realization of the valuably of human life made me understand the importance of fighting through, no matter how hard the battles may become. One life does not just impact that life. When Sylvia Plath took her life, she did not know that almost 50 years later, someone would be impacted by it. I was impacted because I understand her pain. We all understand each others’ pain. When one battle with mental illness is lost, we are all affected. We must get through it together and support each other regardless of the illness that is being fought. We live in an age where mental illness is so widely acknowledged that almost everyone knows someone who is affected. Mental illness impacts us all. Yet, there is still a stigma associated with it. I have acknowledged my fear of illness so that others can as well.

Together, we can end the stigma. Together, we can help each other get through.