Orange Is The New Black Stars Talk Prison Dehumanization, Corruption


This weekend on Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show, a few actors from Orange Is The New Black made an appearance and discussed prison conditions.

Piper Kerman — upon whom the character of Piper Chapman is based — said that when it comes to inmates:

In my experience and my opinion, the statistics are very overwhelming but they become meaningless to folks who are really, really willing to tune out statistics. but stories get them in their gut and their heart and they stay with them.

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The stories told in OITNB — the book, by Kerman, and the show — just represent a fraction of the stories happening right now in our country; Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia, points out that often trans women are put in men’s prisons and denied hormones. As Uzo Aduba — aka Crazy Eyes — says in the clip below, the system is “prepared to take every piece of your humanity away from you.”

Kerman also spoke about psychiatric issues associated with being incarcerated — what can dozens years of solitary confinement do to your brain and behavior? — and pointed out that prisons are the biggest providers of mental health care in the United States.

Whether or not awareness raised by the show can lead to reform remains to be seen, but Kerman now serves on on the board of the Women’s Prison Association.

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