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The Reality of Prison Transfers in “Orange is the New Black”

Inmate Review Orange is the New Black

We discussed on June 10th, the realism of prison life on the hit show, “Orange is the New Black.” The second season’s first episode  revealed again  realistic conditions of prison life. The viewers watched the main character, Piper, awakened during the night for a transfer to another prison. Over the next fifteen minutes, we watched Piper’s fear of the unknown overwhelming her, when the guards refused to discuss her destination. The show depicted accurately inmates struggling to walk and their difficulty eating with their binding chains. Any inmate with experience would have rolled their eyes at Piper not using the toilet in her cell before the rush to the prison van. Five hours later, while on an airplane, two guards watched Piper while she used the toilet.

Let us compare Piper’s transfer to one of my prison transfers in 2011. The following is an excerpt from my still to be completed, prison memoir, “Prisonpath.”

“I am awakened by a guard yelling at me, “Get up, you have 5 minutes to pack up!”

I am stunned for a minute.

My few possessions were tossed into two cardboard boxes that were in a laundry cart outside my cell. I walked quickly to a few cells and tried to say goodbye. The tier officer yelled my name again. I pushed the cart through our housing unit toward the discharge center.  At the discharge center, all of my items were checked for contraband. The correctional officers escorting the inmates ordered all of the inmates to strip and bend over. My lower back was in pain from pushing the laundry cart. I stupidly asked one officer, “Any chance you can make the chain around my waist and back not as tight. My back is killing me.”

Trouble loomed. He responded, “Do you want coffee too?” All of the guards laughed as he made the chain as tight as possible. The correctional officer then asked sarcastically, “Is that comfortable?”

I should have known better than to ask for any help from the escort guards. There was always hostility from this grim escort.

It was hard to climb the bus steps since our ankles were also cuffed with a short chain. The bus finally left the prison. The officer driver made the first curvy exit at a high rate of speed. My body slid from the window to the aisle. I tried to stop the slide, but my body flew off the seat and I landed on the floor of the bus. The chains prevented my getting up from the prison bus’s floor. One young black inmate picked me up by the waist chain that was around my back and neatly placed me back into my seat. He laughed and I thanked him for his kind assistance.”

“Orange is the New Black” has continued to show the realistic conditions of prison life while dramatizing the show.

By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com

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8 Responses to The Reality of Prison Transfers in “Orange is the New Black”

  1. Sue Ellen Allen June 12, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    I had a mastectomy while in jail and went to the surgery with shackles, belly chain and cuffs. They finally took the shackles off when I got on the operating table. I lost my breast and 28 lymph nodes.
    Weeks later when I went to court, I had a permit from medical not to cuff my right arm because I was at high risk of lymphoedema, a condition when your arm can swell to enormous proportions and not go down. When I showed the permit to the guard, he threw it in my face and accused me of forgery. Tears rolled down my face as he grabbed my arm and made the cuffs tighter. I said, “You could be gentle. I’ve just lost my breast.” He laughed, ” I am being gentle. You’re not lying on the ground bleeding.”

    For more, you can read my book, The Slumber Party From Hell.

  2. PrisonPath June 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    I had a mastectomy while in jail and went to the surgery with shackles, belly chain and cuffs. They finally took the shackles off when I got on the operating table. I lost my breast and 28 lymph nodes.
    Weeks later when I went to court, I had a permit from medical not to cuff my right arm because I was at high risk of lymphoedema, a condition when your arm can swell to enormous proportions and not go down. When I showed the permit to the guard, he threw it in my face and accused me of forgery. Tears rolled down my face as he grabbed my arm and made the cuffs tighter. I said, “You could be gentle. I’ve just lost my breast.” He laughed, ” I am being gentle. You’re not lying on the ground bleeding.” For more, you can read my book, The Slumber Party From Hell.
    By Sue Ellen

  3. arnold hansen June 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I have no experience of where you are from, but our transportation people are courteous and do not make waist chains tight because it could result in a medical issue later that would inconvenience everyone. PS I am not selling anything

    • PrisonPath June 13, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

      Hi Arnold,

      I am glad to hear that your transportation teams are professional in carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, not all prison transportation teams are the same.

  4. PrisonPath June 13, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    American Friends Service Committee is a really good resource. Lois Demott is also very knowledgeable and she’s here on linkedin and on facebook.
    By Tracey

  5. PrisonPath June 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    e Reality of Prison Transfers in “Orange is the New Black”

    I was incarcerated in Wyoming for 15 years on relatively minor drug charges. I was a Paralegal, and filed a lawsuit about a TB epidemic (there were 250 out of approximately 700 prisoners infected, no annual testing or treatment protocol), I was threatened with transfer to Walla Walla in the middle of the night, I was transdferred to a halway house when the administration found out I hadv the suit completed, and returned 30 days later (without any write-up), after filing the case at the District Court. I almost died from an 8 month undiagnosed bleeding ulcer (I was vomiting 1 – 5 times a day, lost 42 lbs., suffered severe pain, got 2 – 4 hours sleep night, except maybe once every 2 weeks when I would get six hours out of exhaustion), the Doctor mocked me, laughing when my pants fell off, and repeatedly documented that I was “faking to get pain medication.” On New Years eve, 2004 I was rushed to the hospital with a Hemoglobin of 3.7 grams (normal is 15 grams), and was told by Nurses I should have been dead on arrival. I was transfused with 10 units of blood, and then rushed in for life-saving surgery (the odds were 50%/50% as they did not know if I had sufficient platelwets for the blood to clot. I was handcuffed to the bed with a guard with a gun the whole time. This was all done by a private for profit medical firm, Correctional Medical Services. The Feds have a program called “riding the bus.” If you cause problems, they continually transfer you from one prison to another, your mail never catches up to you, you get no visits, you are subjected to humiliating strip searches everytime (even for offsite Doctor’s appointments). The average Ameerican has no idea what is done in these facilities in THEIR NAME, and frankly don’t care! I volunteered and worked for a prisoner re-entry service in Wyoming (Second Chance Ministries) for 4 years as Administrative Assistant and Grant Writer. I’m currently on SSDI due to Diabetes complications and am awaiting an Insulin Pump. It’s my hope, that if stabilized and health restored to start Maine’s second prisoner reentry program. It cost aerage of $50,000/year to incarcerate (mostly non-violent offenders who will be released), and sadly for every $100 we spend on incarceration, we don’t even spend $1 on reentry services. Dosoevsky said the “true measure of a society is how it treats those it imprisons”, by this standard we are failing miserably!
    By Craig

  6. PrisonPath June 17, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    Medical care for incarcerated women is horrific – there is no other word for it. The same goes for programs, treatment and the like – the women are definitely not afforded the same opportunities while incarcerated as men are and it needs to change. Women need to be more vocal with what changes they want, while it will not happen over night their voices will eventually be heard and changes made, although with all the bureaucratic red tape and change for the good of the inmate takes time and while it may not directly benefit those seeking change just think about the others who will benefit from it some time in the future. I know from first-hand experience having been incarcerated for over 4 years and just recently released. I am now making it my business to seek change and reform.
    By Kathy

  7. PrisonPath June 17, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Kathy, this issue needs every voice. So many leave prison and never want to think of it again so kudos to you for your activism. We need it. I just want to add one thing. My organization brings educational programs into prisons and juvenile facilities and we get lots of mail from both male and female inmates in desperate need. I have many male friends who are former felons. There really is no difference in the horrific medical treatment between men and women. It’s all unconscionable. However, one of the main reasons why private prisons focus on men is because women are too high maintenance due to our gynecological issues. They don’t want the women:)) Yes, we definitely need change and reform. Thanks!!
    By Sue Ellen

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