Individuals and Human Rights in 201: “Thirsty Bird”

Season two picks up a month after the finale of season one when Piper beat the meth-rotten teeth out of Pennsatucky’s face. The episode opens up with Piper being pulled out of the SHU for an unknown reason. A bit disoriented, Piper shows off the yellow warbler she painted on the wall with the previous day’s lunch. According to this source, the yellow warbler is supposed to “bring joy and fun into peoples’ lives;” rather ironic, given the fact that she is in the SHU . . . and miserable. Piper was likely a “thirsty bird,” I assume because of the bladder incident, and thus the title of the episode is explained, at least partially. We get a glimpse of prison life in the Metropolitan Detention Center of Chicago, IL, as well as some clues as to what other inmates have endured in their respective prisons. Although Piper thinks she has been reassigned, she is actually in Chicago to stand trial for Kubra Balik, the “crown jewel” in the drug ring that Alex Vause worked for. When Alex insists that Piper lie under oath, we almost are sure that Piper will tell the truth; however, we find the reverse to be true, and Vause is let out of prison. Yikes!

Prisoners’ Rights

Piper runs into two issues upon  being transported from the SHU to Chicago: she is not granted the basic human right of being able to relieve herself when nature calls, and she is not told where she is being transported to. She and the prisoners are treated like livestock, or at best, the way the mentally disabled were once treated (and are still treated in some places, unfortunately). The dehumanization of inmates is reiterated when the woman showing the inmates to their new cells calls them by their numbers, rather than their names.

Another inmate on the bus that would eventually bring the prisoners to the airport tells Piper about the “pee pad” system for transportation, which is a diaper, in essence, for those whose rights have been taken from them. We laugh at the way the inmate describes the process; however, we soon realize that this actually happens and we are horrified. That’s the point Jenji Kohan (and Piper Kerman, by extension) is trying to make.

When Piper gets on the airplane, she has no privacy when she uses the rest room, having the male marshal watch her as she finally relieves herself. She is even told to hurry up her business, as if she wasn’t already violated and bossed around enough.

Lolly, the inmate that sits beside Piper on the flight, reveals that her previous institution was not feeding her regularly, and that the place was not heated, nor did she have a bed to sleep on. The urine samples collected upon being processed into Chicago reveal a number of things: diseases, poor dieting, and the fact that prisoners are not always allowed to use the rest room when nature calls, a fundamental violation of natural rights.

Urine

The man on the loud speaker in the plane jokes around about their “choice” of airlines, but then says: “You have no choice because you’re prisoners.” We learn from this black humor that the plane is not up to code regarding oxygen masks and safety procedures. The fact of the matter is that prisoners cost money already: why bother having a plane that’s up to code that might be able to fly without a problem with prisoners on it. If there are humans to “spare,” they are the prisoners. (Not my opinion, just what the justice system is saying by using that plane in particular.)

Piper

Objectification of Women

The second or third scene we see of the season premiere once again reiterates the fact that the female inmates are objectified and dehumanized. Other than the fact that the guards blatantly ignore Piper’s requests and incessant pleas for information, they talk about women as if there is not one in their presence — as if women in general are objects.

The “Mila Kunis chick” in question is bashed for trying to “order around” a man. One of the guards says that if she had a “Mila Kunis ass,” then her demands would be justified, or at least put up with for the time being. We also learn that the guards have been instructed to call women “poochies” instead of “bitches,” which in my opinion is just as, if not more, offensive, because “it’s degrading.” We can hear the guard’s exasperated voice and his annoyance with the policy. Despite his new instructions, he has no reservations about telling Piper to “get [her] flat ass on the bus.”

The objectification continues as the men join the women on the plane on the way to Chicago; whereas the female inmates are objectified by both the male guards and the male inmates that join them, the male inmates seem to be treated more justly in the sense that “Gun” (the guy Piper asks a favor from. He was a hit man) was allowed to verbally harass Piper on the plane without much lip from the guards, who would have undoubtedly told a female inmate to shut up and face the front of the plane. “Gun” and the male inmates have more freedom, if just an inch, than the females.

 

Who Are the Inmates?

Once again, we learn that Lolly, Piper’s plane mate with the “‘molest-me-daddy’ voice,” is a crack addict like many other drug-using inmates. Clearly these people did nothing wrong — it is the drug dealers who should be in jail, not those who use. Several of the inmates we meet are in for possession of illegal substances, a clear waste of tax payers’ money as far as the incarceration system goes.

Lolly

 

Inmates on Trial

There is no justice, Piper. Don’t you know that by now?

– Alex Vause, 201: “Thirsty Bird”

Piper and Alex are moved to Chicago to testify in the Kubra Balik trial; although Piper knows lying under oath could potentially lengthen her sentence, she does so in order to protect herself, and Alex. Because Alex told the truth, despite what she said she would do, and despite what she told Piper to do, she was released from prison immediately.

Standing Trial

 

Litchfield: A Comedy

Piper: “I’m supposed to grab it with my hand? And then what?”
Joyce: “Deliver. I mean it. Get on that floor, make like you one giant, blonde crumb, and grab yourself a fine carachacha now.”

 

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