Raise your hand if you've ever watched "Orange Is The New Black" and thought, "Hmm, Litchfield doesn't look that bad..."
(Admit it. Those cell block parties seem #LIT.)
On "OITNB," inmates are housed at Litchfield Penitentiary. The complex serves as a correctional facility for both minimum-security and maximum-security prisoners.
Most of the main characters are held in the minimum-security portion of the prison — which explains why these ladies have so much freedom.
But in real life, prison is anything but a good time.
The Netflix show has worked hard to portray the very real injustices that occur inside (and outside) the razor wire — however, there are still four major things "OITNB" got totally wrong about prison life.
On the show, the prisoners get naked *all* the time.
Granted, an increased amount of nudity makes for better television. But prison is not a sexual free-for-all.
In 2003, US Congress buckled down on prison rape culture by passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which requires wardens to adopt a "no-tolerance" policy for any type of physical violation. Under this federal statute, even a light tap on an inmate’s bottom is considered sexual assault.
It's also an immediate misconduct violation for guards to view inmates of the opposite gender when they’re undressed. (That scene where a handful of women exit the shower in front of Officer Dixon as he waits for Judy King? That would never happen.)
No warden would allow female inmates to casually walk in and out of the bathrooms fully unclothed — this type of behavior would lead to a sexual assault charge.
Litchfield has a lax attitude about what's considered a riot.
Remember when the inmates started chanting Caputo's name in excitement after he announced he planned to revive the GED program and bring more jobs to Litchfield?
The encouraging chant seems like a sweet gesture — but technically, that's a riot in prison.
Inmates are not allowed to organize in any way. Holding a "meeting," passing around a petition, or spreading any type of unifying "propaganda" could lead to disciplinary action.
So forget about hosting a large-scale, multi-prisoner meeting — if something as small as the Caputo chant took place IRL, it would be considered a riot and each prisoner would have been promptly maced.
Prison officials give inmates gifts and presents.
In prison, the rules are simple:
Anything that isn’t sold or made within the prison walls = Contraband.
Therefore, gifts and presents = Contraband.
On "OITNB," Caputo gave a nice watch (read: a gift) to Taystee for working as his assistant (another thing that would never be acceptable IRL, but let's not go there). In doing so, the director broke prison rules.
It's doubtful a real-life warden or prison official would put his or her job on the line just to give a present to an inmate.
Prison beauty culture is MUCH more complex than it is on the show.
On "OITNB," Lorna Morello is Litchfield's go-to beauty guru. In nearly every episode, the glamorous (but clinically deranged) prisoner joyfully waltzes around the prison complex with a fresh face of makeup.
Her fellow inmate Sophia even wears hair extensions.
Based on the show, it's easy to assume that of all the rights and privileges stripped from prisoners, beauty isn't one of them. But in reality, that's not the case.
It's extremely difficult to get "real makeup" in prison. Inmates often have to resort to wearing homemade cosmetics. They create them by using items purchased from the commissary. In an essay for Elle, former inmate Chandra Bozelko said her "cube mate" used to take the brush from a broken nail polish bottle to paint on a cupid's bow with the red coating from Fireball candies.
The complexity and creativity that's involved in prison beauty is mind-blowing, yet the show barely touches upon this impressive system.