Prison, as many former or current inmates will tell you, is a horrific place. The idea behind it is that prison will reform or change a person for the better and help them make good choices; avoiding the sorts of bad choices that landed them there in the first place. That’s how prison is meant to work.
However, in the United States, prison is synonymous with big business and by 1994, prisons were able to amass profits of over $1 billion with all of that money generated by hard labour. The US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world (including China, which has three times the population of the United States) as this labour is such a revenue driver for so many companies – prisoners will be paid around $2 an hour, eight hours a day, to send that money to their families.
Other mistreatment is on the cards too, including sweltering or horrid living conditions, abuse (both physical and verbal) from the guards and more. But few people were talking about any of this until a few years ago when a show called Orange is the New Black debuted on Netflix.
Speaking to Bustle, actor Laura Gómez who plays Blanca Flores on the show, explains why the show is so important:
It’s brought all these topics to the table about the treatment of women in prison; about the justice system; about how unfair sometimes the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. I know it’s fiction, but it’s kind of reflecting a little bit of reality… We’ve seen how the treatment of the inmates goes and there’s not necessarily the right treatment to make these people fit into society when they come back from their time in prison.
We’re bringing them back to prison, that’s what we’re doing. We’re not helping them come back and be active and helpful to society again. So it’s kind of a circle that’s not really working for our society at all.”
Additionally she explains why the show has had such huge success:
There’s a hungry audience out for real characters like this show has brought and they connect with not only the characters, but the actresses. [OITNB is a] cast of so many nationalities, so many backgrounds and races and just flavors and colors, playing such wonderful real characters and I think it’s been a great thing for the industry to see that.”
There is little doubt that the show discusses some of the most important issues facing women – of all races and backgrounds and sexualities – and we are very happy to see its success continue.
Orange is the New Black season three debuts on Netflix on June 12, 2015.