Another day, another fool trying to shove things up his butt to hide them from cops. This time, 35-year-old André Silva de Jesus was visiting his local prison in Ribeirao das Neves, Brazil, when he appeared “nervous,” and was pulled aside for an inspection. Claiming he had a pacemaker, André informed the prison guards he couldn’t go through the metal detector.
Little did cops know that they would ultimately find enough crap to rival an entire “Storage Wars” unit, all tucked away in his tush. Keep reading »
This past Monday, The Atlantic’s Noah Berlatsky took it upon himself to complain that “Orange is the New Black” inadequately represents the male prison population. Ohhhh boy. Keep reading »
If you read Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is The New Black or binge-watched the Netflix adaptation (and who hasn’t done that?), chances are you have wondered about the real-life woman behind Nora (in the book) and Alex Vause (the character in the show). For the first time ever, 51-year-old novelist and PhD student Catherine Cleary Wolters has spoken to Vanity Fair about her relationship with Kerman, their mutually-assured-destruction as cash smugglers for an African drug lord, and her side of their love story. Keep reading »
Now that Chelsea Manning has expressed a desire to medically transition through hormone replacement therapy, there are a lot of questions circling about what Leavenworth looks like for a trans woman, and how exactly someone might transition from male to female in prison. While Manning’s case itself is complicated, the question of what kind of healthcare someone deserves in prison is fairly simple. There are clear legal and moral arguments for Manning receiving hormones once they are prescribed by a doctor. This isn’t about what she did or did not do; it’s about the basic commitment we make as a society when we lock someone up.
When someone commits a crime, no matter how heinous, we still have an obligation as a society to provide their basic needs while they serve their time. As Lesley Kinzel argued when writing about the Michelle Kosilek case last year, “What makes us better than murderers is that we value human life, even the lives of those who don’t value life themselves, their own included.” Whether or not you agree with Manning’s release of classified information, we consider a decent life a collective value, enshrined in the basic rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution. Courts have already held that the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment confers a right to adequate medical care in prison, and medical experts and courts have consistently found that hormone therapy is a medically necessary treatment for transgender people for whom it’s prescribed. Keep reading »
Everybody has feelings about Jenji Kohan’s “Orange is the New Black.” I have all the feelings. Since the show’s debut, we’ve tossed opinions back-and-forth about the cast of characters and the powerfully written narratives that reveal the unseen lives of American’s imprisoned women. But of the many conversations that have surfaced, the most discernible for me is of the legitimacy of Piper Kerman, the memoirist about whom the show was made.
In brief, after getting involved with an international drug dealer, Kerman (a white woman) was indicted for money laundering and spent a year in a woman’s prison – you know, the usual account of a well-to-do white woman who graduated from Smith. She subsequently wrote a best-selling memoir, which was adapted for Netflix. You can watch all of season one there now; I finished it in less than a week.
The show follows her into prison and tells the backstory of several other inmates, many of them women of color. The storyline is emotionally riveting. We’re met with race-related segregation, which mirrors the actual prison experience where racial categories and separation are often strictly enforced. Piper’s race and class privilege are checked in the first episode when it’s revealed that she “read up” on prison etiquette before she arrived. One inmate gives birth in prison and comes back to her bunk child-free, showcasing the reality that two-thirds of incarcerated women are mothers and busting the myth that women who labor in prison get to keep their babies. As a birth justice activist, I wished they’d shown the inhumane way in which many prisons shackle women during labor. Keep reading »