Before we discuss whether the prison guards are realistic in “Orange is the New Black,” I acknowledge that the politically correct term for those who guard our prisons is correctional officers. As a former inmate, I found the correctional officers in the series to be realistic. Numerous reviews have complained about the stereotypical prison guards in this series. It was fascinating to read reviews by critics who did not have any understanding of prison life.
I always thought of correctional officers as part-time inmates. It was true that after their shift was completed, the officers left the prison to go home. It was also evident that the correctional officers hated their life in prison as much as the inmates. Sometimes, it was even difficult to see any difference between the guards and the inmates. There were some correctional officers who were decent human beings, but a significant number of the officers were the same as the worst of the inmates. Both preyed on the weak.
The correctional officers in Orange were believable to me. You will find officers like “Pornstache” in every prison. This character in the series thrived on his power over the female inmates. He also profited off the inmates as well. In male prisons, you will usually not find the male officers employing sexual power over the inmates, but every day certain correctional officers will use their power to degrade the inmates. In one scene, Pornstach tried to coerce Red, the kitchen manager, to help smuggle drugs. After Red refused him, Pornstach touched her repeatedly to show his control over her,and then proceeded to scatter food throughout her kitchen.
At my prison, there was a correctional officer who not only acted like the nasty Pornstach, but also resembled him to even the mustache. This officer allowed inmates additional phone time, if he was given food items that the inmates had purchased from the commissary. Pornstach in Orange sold drugs to the inmates. In Maryland, this past year, an investigation revealed that a number of correctional officers smuggled drugs and cellphones to one of the prison gangs in the Baltimore prisons. This story was posted in “Foxes Guarding the Chicken Coop.”
On the flip side, there are several correctional officers who demonstrated a genuine interest in helping the female inmates. Despite their obvious frustrations with their job, they actually listened to the inmates and tried in their way to help the inmates. I am not referring to the impregnation of one young inmate.
In my prison, the inmates were never given sufficient toilet paper for each week. Most inmates including myself did not have any by the end of each week. Many correctional officers ignored our requests for additional toilet paper with a laugh, a sneer, or with the comment, “Use your Hand.” However, during the morning shift, our tier had an older correctional officer who treated the inmates respectfully. This older officer always kept extra rolls of toilet paper in his desk for inmates. He was also flexible about additional shower time. His shift never had any incidents. Some of the other correctional officers complained about him to their superiors.
The correctional officers in “Orange is the New Black” were real. We shall continue with our reviews of this series.