Orange is the New Black is a fantastic show and offers a glimpse into the prison system but how much of it is realistic and what isn’t?
Anytime a television show is based on something real people instantly begin to question how real it is. Orange Is The New Black certainly falls into that category as it takes place within a prison setting, giving people a glimpse as to what life is like behind bars.
At times, the prison life doesn’t actually seem so bad with how it’s portrayed, with the show almost giving off a party atmosphere at times. However, then it flips and makes things seem incredibly grim, dangerous, and depressing.
That’s the reality of a television show though. Some moments are created to add drama, even though it’s not really how prison is, and within this list, we will look at five things about prison the show gets wrong, and five that are correct.
Right: Weapons From Anything
Obviously, prisoners are not able to take in huge knives or any obvious weapons and therefore if someone wants to be aggressive and hurt another inmate, there’s a need for creativity. Whether it’s a shaver, a toothbrush, or as happens on the show, a Jolly Rancher shank, people often create weapons as often as possible.
The guards obviously have to do their best to try and keep on top of this situation to try and stop any violence from taking place. However, people do manage to create weapons out of the craziest things in order to get one over on someone they don’t like within the prison, which the show does highlight.
Wrong: Presents For Prisoners
Throughout Orange Is The New Black, many of the prisoners and the guards end up having quite a strong bond, which is questionable at best. However, in real prisons, there’s no doubt some prisoners who do create a strong bond with different guards, but the show takes it too far.
There are moments in the show where the prisoners are actually given gifts, which is completely ridiculous. Joe Caputo provides Taystee with a watch at one point, and while that made for a sweet moment on the show, it would never happen in real life.
Right: The Race Divide
For the most part in Orange Is The New Black, each race sits with each other and hangs out together. While that might seem incredibly stereotypical that white prisoners stick together, and black prisoners stick together, etc, the fact is, that’s exactly what happens in prison.
In fact, in real prisons, the situation is arguably even worse. Often the different races within the prison never speak, which isn’t the case for this television show. It’s a shame that it is that way, but unfortunately, that is currently the case, and the show got it spot on.
The showers are shown every now and then throughout Orange Is The New Black, and most of the time it leads to some sort of intimate situation. However, this is very rarely the case inside a real prison, in fact, most of the time inmates would head to the showers with as many clothes as possible.
This is arguably the most vulnerable situation in a prison environment for multiple reasons, but the show doesn’t really highlight that fact. Most of the time this is the location where dangerous situations would take place, so it tends to be a time people run in and out as quickly as possible.
Right: Stealing A Date
When inmates are given their release date, they instantly become a target to everyone else in the prison. Perhaps it is through jealousy or just sheer anger, but the situation of someone ‘stealing a date’ is a very real situation, with prisoners often costing someone their release.
Throughout the show, this happens several times, with certain people trying to goad them into misbehaving. Forcing them to act out in anger, with the intention being for them to have their stay extended is sadly something that also happens in real life in prison.
Wrong: The Kitchen
The kitchen is a major part of the show right from the start, which is why it’s surprising that they got so much about it incorrect. Firstly, the amount of amazing equipment they have simply wouldn’t exist in a normal prison, where they are provided with the basic tools to do the job.
On top of that, no prisoner ever has enough power to run the kitchen, like they do on this show. Someone might be in charge, but they would still be told what to do by a member of staff. As well as that, fresh food isn’t something that is commonplace, mainly because things like that cannot be divided equally.
Right: Jobs Are Important
Throughout Orange Is The New Black there are plenty of arguments and fights over jobs within the prison. Most notably, the cooking jobs, but also other positions such as when the prison gets a sewing factory and an electrician scheme.
While it might seem strange for people to be so obsessed with wanting a job in prison, the reality is that’s the case. People who constantly work are more likely to be released early on good behavior, and they are given money to spend within the prison, making their life slightly more bearable. On top of that, it’s just good to be out of the same area constantly, so this is something that prisoners take very seriously.
For the most part, the prisons that are shown throughout Orange Is The New Black are incredibly clean and tidy, but in reality that wouldn’t be the case. In real prisons, they are often incredibly messy and old, with things breaking and becoming rundown over time.
That isn’t something that these inmates suffer from, and they are lucky for that. The show makes a point of stating they can’t get funding for the prisons and that they aren’t new, so it is surprising that they appear to be in such pristine conditions.
Throughout the show, there are tons of relationships and flings from prisoners and guards, and that is a situation that is also very real. While in most prisons, the guards wouldn’t be romantically involved with any prisoner as it can cost them their jobs, prisoner relationships are commonplace.
Because many of the prisoners are locked up for such a long period of time, it is their only option if they want to have their needs met or find love. These relationships can work, but can also cause complete chaos, as is highlighted throughout the show.
Wrong: Prison Takeover
One of the most famous storylines from Orange Is The New Black saw the inmates completely take over the prison setting, capturing the guards and holding them hostage. Obviously, this was done for drama purposes and in reality, would never happen in a real prison.
Sure, sometimes the prisoners do get the best of the guards and get physical with them. However, overtaking an entire prison and holding it hostage is just something that would not happen in reality due to the safety measures that are put in place.