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My friend Susan K. (a pseudonym) is a decidedly reformed ex-convict who spent four years in Maryland maximum security prison for drug-related armed robbery in the late ’90s. (Read her full story here.) Last year, we reviewed multiple episodes of Season 2 of Orange is the New Black, a Netflix show that takes place in a women’s prison.
She has agreed to review a few episodes of Season 3. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Episode Two: “Bed Bugs and Beyond”
Flaca is undergoing an examination in the infirmary, and the diagnosis is bedbugs.
Arts Desk: Did Jessup or Patuxent ever have any infestations or anything like that?
Susan: No, not while I was there. Believe it or not, everybody was pretty fastidious when it came to cleanliness. I mean, it was weird, because nobody shaved their legs or armpits or anything, but if you went a few days without showering everybody would call you “trifling.”
Yeah, as in, “That trifling-ass bitch needs to take her ass to the showers.” It got pretty juvenile at times. Like, in Jessup each cell had its own toilet. They were these fucking metal jobs that didn’t have seats, you know, so it took you awhile to get used to using it. But every now and then somebody would let go with this loud old dump and would stink up the entire section, and you’d have 30 bitches screaming at whoever it was. Like “Damn, you trifling bitch! Put some water on it! Put some water on it! Damn, girl you ALLLLLLLLL fucked up!”
Did that ever happen to you?
Oh, dude, it happened to everybody. They would have put Michelle Obama through the same treatment if she were in there.
But there was never a lice infestation or anything?
No. The peer pressure to stay clean was pretty high. And I never had a problem with that. Heroin addict, yes. Armed robber, yes. Wiccan, yes. Dirty hippie, fuck no.
Bennett and Daya are having an intimate conversation in the dormitory. Along with most of the other inmates, Daya is half-naked.
I can’t really relate to this. The snuggly little conversation between Opie and the pregnant chick is like, rom-com bullshit.
You mentioned earlier that there were no male guards at Jessup or Patuxent.
Yeah, dude, I think I went about seven months without actually seeing a man that wasn’t my dad on visiting day, or else it was a man wearing riot gear who just looked furious.
What was it like actually seeing men when you were finally able to?
Well, it sort of depended on which men we’re talking about. I mean, I got a few day releases, and then towards the end I got that work release job at the restaurant, but for the most part the men [who ate there] would be, like, balding pot-bellied dudes wearing Dockers. That doesn’t exactly stir the loins of a girl in her late 20s, you know? But I do remember once I served this guy who was just like, fucking gorgeous, and my hands were trembling, and I was giggling like a schoolgirl. It was idiotic.
Did he notice?
Ha! Actually, he asked me out on a date! Can you believe it? He was like, “Hey, what time do you get off? Want to grab a drink?” And I pretty much had to tell him that I had to go back to Patuxent. That cooled his shit off pretty quick.
Boo and Nicky are going over plans to smuggle a large quantity of heroin out of the prison.
Yeah, they won’t be able to do that without the guards. They search the hell out of you when you leave on your last day.
To make sure you aren’t smuggling anything out, like messages to people on the outside, or evidence, or drugs of course. I was pissed when they searched me. I was like, “Do you assholes think I’m going to take some souvenirs out of this shithole? Some mementos of my time here? Like, I’m going to sneak it out, put it on my nightstand, and reminisce about the time the guards beat the shit out of the crackhead?” All I wanted to do was get out, go to the temporary housing, and take a fucking Silkwood shower, you know? Oh, and dude, this bitch of a guard knew I was leaving, and she just went to town on the cavity search. Like, really put some mustard on it, you know? I swear she was smiling while she did it. Just so I’d remember her, I guess.
Lucheck agrees to sell Nicky’s heroin for her.
See? Yeah, that’s sort of right. But I doubt American Pie would have just marched up to someone bold as nuts, there.
How would something like that have happened?
Somebody outside of the prison would have approached the guard. That’s how it normally would have happened. Somebody would have gone to the guard’s house or sidled up to him at fucking Applebee’s or something, and they would have made the arrangements. The contact between the inmate and the guard would have been kept to a bare minimum.
Caputo hires an exterminator who tells him that in order to handle the bedbug infestation, all the books in the library would have to be burned.
You know, I was glad I worked in the library, although I have to admit that it was pretty stereotypical of them to put me in there.
Why was it stereotypical?
Well, it was like, they looked at me and thought “White chick, not a hillbilly meth casualty, not a white girl who acts black, she can probably read. Put her in the library.” I mean, never mind that I did a half-assed armed robbery, which was the dumbest thing you can do. They just assumed I was smart because I was white, had all my teeth, and wasn’t named LuAnne or Raylene. It wasn’t like I was pressing license plates or anything, but it wasn’t exactly an easy gig, either.
What was hard about it?
Well, about once a week a CO would come in and inspect everything to make sure that all the books were properly shelved and alphabetized and everything, and they wouldn’t tell you which day. And these bitches would just take books off the shelves, bring them to a table, then talk with their friends for a half hour, and then leave without putting the books back. Or they’d just put them anywhere at random. So pretty much every day I’d have to re-alphabetize everything. I mean, you know, boo-hoo, right? But just put the damn books back! How hard is that to do?
What sort of books did you read?
Oh, I read the whole damn library when I wasn’t putting everything back where it was supposed to be. The books were all donated, but the folks doing the donating weren’t being all high-minded as much as they were just cleaning out the garage. So you’d get all this random shit. Like, “Oh joy! A 1970 manual on effective ways for municipalities to better manage and regulate water utilities!” I even read that fucking thing. Oh, and I also know a lot about Star Trek now.
How did that happen?
It’s weird, because I never saw an episode until after I got out of prison. But one day we got this enormous shipment of Star Trek books. Who knows, maybe some Trekkie wandered in front of a bus or something, but one day we got like 60 of them. And for lack of anything else to do, I started reading them.
Did you like them?
Not really. I mean, I thought they were pretty stupid. But I read every one of them. And to this day, I can tell you the difference between a Romulan and a Vulcan. I can tell you who invented warp drive. I can tell you what the Prime Directive is. And I don’t even really give a shit about it. Dude, I bet if I hit one of those conventions those nerds would be tripping over themselves to get to me.
Ha! Fuck no.
Read Susan’s review of this season’s Episode 1.