It’s easy to get caught up in the world of Orange is the New Black. The grittiness and emotional rawness of the show can lead you to believe that you are seeing prison life as it really is. Luckily, real former prisoners have spoken up about the show. Though there’s a lot OITNB gets right about life behind bars, there’s definitely some deviation from reality. Here are some of the real prisoners’ best quotes, though we also recommend reading their full stories.
“The show is racist. Yes, I said it. That’s because the entire prison apparatus is racist, thus any show based on it, rooted in it, must also be racist.” – Bruce Reilly for RIfuture.org
“From Sophia’s stylish silver shower shoes made from duct tape and Morello’s Kool-Aid as mascara/lip gloss to the hooch at Tricia’s Irish wake, prisoners learn to make do with less. This echoes my experience. I saw inmates cut hair with toenail clippers (no pimped-out full-service salons like Sophia’s!), cook grilled cheese with a laundry room iron, and fashion free weights from massive boulders in laundry bags and tied around a bar.” – Jeff Smith in Buzzfeed
“[On the show] you don’t see someone sitting in the corner crying, and someone sitting at the other end of the table crying.” – Diana Delgado in the Chicago Tribune
“If you’re a drug offender, you hang out with drug offenders. If you’re in for a money crime, people think you’re intelligent. Then you have the sex offenders that you really don’t mess with at all.” – Michelle Vaughn in New York Magazine
“In Orange, the races eat together, which was exceptionally rare at the Kentucky prison where I spent 2010. I did it my first week when I was the only white guy in my cell block and didn’t know any other whites; an Aryan Brotherhood member pulled me aside later that day and advised me not to do so again.” – Jeff Smith
“The shower itself is disgusting. There was different types of molds and funguses growing on the shower — out and around the shower.” – Jason Porter, a former inmate at the prison where some of Orange is the New Black is shot
“Your hair looks like a mess, and you’re wearing that awful gray potato sack, and then you wait so long just for a one-hour visit.” – Laura in New York Magazine