Orange is the New Black Represents Everything That’s Wrong with Our Prison System

“The Animals”… That’s the title of Episode 412. That’s the title of the theme song that plays before every episode. So immediately you think that we are finally seeing how bad the “animals” can actually behave. But it’s a trick. The episode is not about how animalistic & horrible the inmates can be. It’s about exactly how horrible and corrupt correctional officers on a power trip can be. Such irony in just the title of this episode.

The content is difficult to watch. What we’ve seen is a prison system unraveling at the seams. Everything was calmer, for the most part, before MCC took over, and since then, they have been royally screwing up the place at every turn. Their interest is not protecting & keeping their inmates safe. Their interest is how much money they can make on each inmate. It’s a very crude system. And putting guards in charge who have little to no training only makes it ten times worse.

As the episode illustrates, Officer Baxter Bayley is a typical dumb kid. He’s way too young & impressionable to be in that position, and he’s very poorly trained. He does things he shouldn’t, but unlike his friends and co-workers, he possesses enough awareness to know what he’s doing is wrong. Yet, thanks to his inexperience and age, he is unable to stand up to the other guards. The one time he tried to report them, Warden Caputo demonstrates just how powerless he is in this new privatized system. And so he slinks out like a defeated coward , so that he won’t lose his job.

Officer Piscatella is the animal. Along with the majority of his men who really don’t give a damn about the inmates that they are in charge of. They only see them as caged animals, which enriches the irony even more. The actual animals are treating the inmates like they are animals. They kick them, they push them, they even pit them against each other to fight like pit bulls in a dog fight. There is no supervision because the officers share the same viewpoint. And the few that don’t agree do not possess the balls to call them out. Even the female guard, Officer McCullough, looked the other way when she knew Officer Humphreys had done something bad to Maritza. She was witnessing crimes towards women and not reporting them.

Poussey’s death is absolutely tragic. Not only because she was an intelligent, good person who was serving way too much time for a minor drug offense, but because her death was absolutely unnecessary and preventable! It never should have gotten to that point. And it never would have if it weren’t for the guards and their taunting. They created and caused all of the chaos, and they were 100% responsible for Poussey’s death.

I imagine how this would have played out in the real world. First of all, Bayley would have been placed on paid leave. So would the rest of the officers present, I imagine, pending investigation. Then the prison would issue a statement, because this would make the news pretty quickly. It would be a vague statement, reading something like this: A Litchfield inmate died of undetermined causes last night. A full investigation is underway, and the officers present will be cooperating fully. Our sympathies go out to the family.

And that would be that, until the media & the inmate’s parents began digging. The usual people would become outraged at the violent killing of an unarmed inmate (I am one of those people!) and the usual assholes who say she got what she deserved would begin poisoning the comment section below every news story. Poussey Washington would be just another casualty of the criminal justice and prison systems. There would be a lot of false accounts put out by the prison about her fake violent history, and there would be a lot of people posting her picture and her name, and ranting about police brutality, because that’s all they know to do, to raise awareness & demand action.

And what would become of Baxter Bayley? It would be drilled into his head that he followed reasonable protocol and was just doing his job. Why should he lose everything over the life of a prisoner? It was an accident, and she was being unruly! So he would plead not guilty, and go to trial. He would be found not guilty because the jury would believe he was not working in a malicious manner (and I believe he wasn’t), and he was just doing what he was ordered to do. And what of the man who gave the order to clear the cafeteria? He will not be held accountable by the court system. He will probably get three months compensation and asked to quietly leave. And the rest of the officers will keep their mouths shut so they can keep their jobs.

And what about Poussey Washington? She is dead, and no one is held accountable. There is no justice.