OITNB, Mental Illness, and the Prison System


Man summer has come and gone, but the weather will definitely stay for a little bit longer. But do you know what has also come and gone? Orange Is The New Black.  I love that show! I watched all five seasons in one month and I  loved the characters and the stories, but what I really, really liked about the story was the depiction of the inhumane circumstances that the prisoners were put under. It really made me think…that just because they are prisoners or as we label them, “bad guys”, does that mean they deserve inadequate treatment even in prison? People have often been fighting against the inhumane treatment of prisoners undergoing the death penalty, but what about the inhumane treatment of the prisoners still living? Are they not considered people too? Aren’t they still considered Americans despite the fact they are serving time?


In every few episodes, we see the backstories of each of the main characters. Some of them did horrible things or did bad things for the pleasure of doing them but most were people who were trying to survive in their everyday lives or placed in jail for petty things  or because they were suffering from an addiction or an mental illness.

Nicky, Crazy Eyes, and Lolly caught my attention, but especially Lolly. Now, we see with Nicky  that she was struggling with drug addiction and Crazy Eyes and Lolly was definitely had some form of mental illness.We see with Nicky, the struggle to deal with her addiction with Red and her fellow inmates.  Although there is no actual rehab facility for Nicky to attend, but Red and the rest of her fellow inmates are trying to help her over come it.  I mean there was the A.A. in the prison but it didn’t really help. However (spoiler ahead for those who have not watched the series) with Crazy Eyes and Lolly there is no sort of rehabilitation for them. It took awhile for the inmates to accept their illnesses.


A perfect picture capturing Taystee being Crazy Eye’s caretaker

There’s just straight up psych and according to Crazy Eyes, the psychiatric center at Litchfield Penitentiary is cruel and she said that she was better off in prison. When I heard first Crazy Eyes say that, I wondered to myself, “How cruel is Litchfield’s Psych Ward?” Well as the show progressed, I began to know why.

In season one, Tiffany ” Pennsatucky” Doggett was sent the psych ward because she assaulted a juvenile inmate in a wheelchair. As Dogget gets taken into Litchfield Psych, we see the abhorrent conditions that the inmates face.  We see her get strapped by a group up psych nurses and she is already injected with sedatives. And in a much later scene she is placed pretty much in a cage, where she was evaluated once again. Thankfully, Doggett was eventually  taken out of psych. However through Lolly, we get to see more of the pysch’s conditions after she is found out murdering Aydin, a former  co-worker of Alex and employee to a kingpin, who unknowingly to Lichfield was disguised as a correction officer. Though before we come across the scene, the audience begins to know a little back story behind Lolly. She was a reporter who was into conspiracies, unfortunately due to her interest in conspiracies and her mental illness (unknown at the time) she was fired from her job.


Young Lolly played by Christina Brucato

A friend of Lolly’s tried to put her in a group home, but that didn’t work out for her and we eventually find her being homeless. One day as she was walking through her neighborhood with her cart  selling coffee,  she bumped into the police. They  ended up citing her for illegally distributing coffee without a license. However due to this confrontation, it made her anxiety to rise as well as the symptoms of schizophrenia; leading her to believe the police were up to no good and threw a cup at them. The next thing you know, Lolly was pinned under the police officers.


So, now we return the whole fiasco of Lolly murdering Ayden. Lolly killed him to protect  herself and especially Alex, who Ayden’s main target. Eventually drama ensues since Ayden was buried in Red’s garden and the inmates who worked at the garden were questioned (including Red). Episodes later, it was found that was Lolly was the killer and was taken to psych. As Healy escorts Lolly to the psych ward and later as she was escorted by the COs of the ward, we hear and see the unsightly treatments the inmates experience. Horrified by this, Lolly screams for Healy to get her out but all he could do is see her off as she was further escorted into the ward.

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As mentioned earlier, this show really got me thinking of the maltreatment that may perhaps be going on in our jails. I would hate to think that my tax dollars would lead to nowhere, except to the pockets of those who hold similar positions to Natalie Figueroa (Fig) and Joe Caputo and their own interests as we find even in the OITNB series. Like when it was found the funds that were suppose to be going to the Litchfield Prison were being led elsewhere and even outside of Litchfield.

And it’s totally horrifying to think that jail is becoming a new place to house mentally ill inmates, especially when staff may receive little to no training and probably are not administrating the correct or any treatment at all. Hell, it’s hard already for those living with mental illness outside of prisons to get treatment. But in the prisons? There needs to major reform in mental health care inside and outside of prisons, so that all Americans can live to their optimal mental health.

6 thoughts on “OITNB, Mental Illness, and the Prison System

  1. I didn’t watch the new season but I ❤ oitnb. Unfortunately stigma and lack of understanding when it comes to mental illness keeps people trapped in a system that emphasizes brutality over treatment smh. These stories are too common! Breaks my heart 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did time in a Federal prison, and even though OITNB is pretty accurate, it is still a “hollywood” interpretation, and as such, puts a definite liberal spin on things. The fact is, that for the most part, inmates in federal prisons are not treated badly, the majority of complaints I’d heard during my incarceration were the result of people not getting their way. Let’s face it, prisob is not supposed to be a luxury resort, criminals are put into prison to be punished, they are supposed to be miserable — so miserable that they don’t want to go back. And, contrary to popular mythology, there are plenty of opportunities for rehabilitation for inmates who are willing to take advantage of these opportunities, and put in the work to make real change. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that there are precious few who are willing to do what it takes. They’re much more content to sit around whining about how bad they have it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Huh…never saw it that way. The thing is you don’t hear much from the prisoners themselves. I mean if you didn’t tell me I’d probably wouldn’t have known. It would make sense then OITNB would be more accurate, since the book itself was written by someone who is in prison. It’s not that it’s a myth per say because there are reports. It’s just readers like myself are just only hearing one side…particularly from people who have never been in or worked in the prison team. But thank you for your insight. I appreciate it🙂


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