Prison Security and Health Concerns in 207: “Comic Sans”

The Big House Bugle is in full swing as Piper takes on three staff members — Daya, Morello, and Gonzalez — to get the newsletter going. Meanwhile Vee and her girls get the tobacco operation up and running, thus beginning to run things around Litchfield; to compensate, Red is letting everyone know that she is back in business and has a steady stream of supplies. The prison’s security team is reprimanded for Jimmy’s easy escape and near embarrassment of the institution. CO John Bennett finally lays down the line with the Spanish girls requesting contraband in exchange for the safety of his and Daya’s secret. Furlough, the “Loch Ness Monster,” is spoken of again. Issues of social justice and contraband are discussed.

Litchfield’s Rats

Vee has lined her ducks up so that she’s had tobacco smuggled into the warehouse and Crazy Eyes rolls the cigarettes all day. These are in turn put into used plastic tampon applicators and replaced into their wrappers, back into the tampon boxes from commissary and voila — her tobacco peddling business is born. To get a cigarette? Simply present your Forever stamps, which will always be good regardless of the price of postage in the future. They will “forever” retain their value and become an investment. Black Cindy makes the mistake of trading the cigarettes for goods, thus letting her fall to the bottom of the totem pole. She must either be left out of the business, or dig through the trash for used applicators. Angie Rice is cleaning Black Cindy’s bunk in exchange for cigarettes and women are literally bending over backwards to get some of the good stuff. Forever stamps are requested because Vee is planning ahead for “the long game.” She accuses Black Cindy of not planning for the future because she doesn’t believe she has one herself, and she’s “a loser.” Everyone’s caught a whiff of the tobacco, and they are all buying into the business. Literally.

On the Red front (I just realized . . . Red party, Communism, Russia, Reznikov . . . smart!), Reznikov’s son has found the sewer grate under Red’s greenhouse, power sawed through the drain and is now delivering fine contraband right to her feet. She’s getting her usual supply of pantyhose, eye liner, and candy in order to win her alliances back after her fall from role as Kitchen Queen. She’s arranged a trade with Sophia Burset — gummy bears for her signature red locks.

Bennett has been sneaking in whatever the Hispanic girls want for fear that they would report him and his misdeeds to the administration, thus landing him in jail. From iPods to YooHoo and porn, the girls call him “Santa,” even though he’s “better-looking and he shows up even if you’ve been naughty.” Bennett draws the line at gay porn and eventually uses the shot-quota to his advantage, threatens to throw Maritza into the SHU, and intimidates the Latina women back “into their place” as inmates.

Although there are three very separate lines of contraband here, one for each of the major groups (Red serving as that for the Whites and Golden Girls), none is in competition with each other, as Gloria points out. Red is far more wise when it comes to contraband, for she knows that nothing good can come of it. Red remains the queen of contraband and bribery, and reminds Gloria that she should be more “original” after offering her a yogurt in a trade (she wants cilantro — “none of that contraband shit”).

Similarly, Piper “trades” Joe Caputo the feature story on the head of the Big  House Bugle in exchange for him to lay off and to feed his ego — without Sam Healy knowing it, Piper allows Healy the “Editor-in-Chief” title if he’ll give her the wiggle room to investigate the prison, without him knowing of course. Daya’s insistence on using Comic Sans font for her comics gives this episode its namesake. Like rats (which the Golden Girls indirectly discuss while talking about the Disney film Ratatouille), each of these systems operates in plain sight, but under the noses of the administration.


Security and Health Concerns

This episode opens up with Caputo severely admonishing the security team for Jimmy’s ease of escape the prior night. In discussing what to do with Jimmy, someone suggested throwing her in the max for added time, to which Eliqua Maxwell comments that she’s done enough time already. They eventually settle on having Jimmy under 24/7 surveillance to figure out how she escaped. In response to t his security issue, Caputo imposes a five shot quota for the security guards to keep the women in line and to reassure they are doing their jobs (for Susan Fischer it is a six shot quota, for she has not worked hard enough to toughen up around the prisoners, despite Caputo’s request). In a moment of Wanda Bell’s weakness (when CO O’Neill comes back to make up with her), Jimmy wanders off to the chapel. In her Alzheimeric daze, she jumps off the stage and injures herself. It is then when the prison washes its hands of Jimmy and grants her “Compassionate Release.

Rachel Nuwer of The Daily Beast reports:

“People with advanced dementia can live for a very long time with profound frailty and cognitive disability,” says Brie Williams, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “They may not even now they are in prison or being punished.”

Logically, it doesn’t make sense to waste tax payers money on prisoners that are unaware of the rehabilitation that is taking place, given the fact that this is the main objective of incarceration. Nuwer continues:

The practice allows some prisoners who do not have much time left—including those who suffer from a terminal illness and have less than 18 months to live, those who have a debilitating medical condition like Alzheimer’s, or those who are elderly—to apply for and potentially gain release from prison. Compassionate release programs save prisons money, but there are also ethical arguments to support the practice.

Under this definition, Miss Rosa should  be eligible for Compassionate Release. Ira Byock, a palliative care physician at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, asserts that “People who are severely debilitated or are in the midst of dying are usually no longer a threat to society, and there is not a compelling social advantage to keeping them in prison” (qtd. in Nuwer). “But sick and elderly prisoners don’t just get booted out to the bus stop like Jimmy—the process of applying for compassionate release is quite lengthy. In federal prisons, the application requires the warden’s written recommendation, a pile of paperwork, and a 30-day progress report on the inmate’s condition and behavior” (Nuwer), and the document from the Department of Justice on Compassionate Release states that a release plan, as well as health care and living arrangements are all figured out before the inmate is released. In real life, Jimmy would not have been dropped off at a  bus stop (Department of Justice).

A final note on security: Susan Fischer’s concern with spot-checking calls has led her to the realization that Daya Diaz is pregnant. What will she do with that information? Will this be the end of CO John  Bennett?


Social (In)Justice

“I’m an inmate. I have nothing.”

Dayanara Diaz

Litchfield’s inefficiency that the reporter and Piper try to uncover is usually at the disservice to the inmates; however, without it, the office would not have carelessly let the reporter into the prison, which would have given Natalie Figueroa a heart attack. Piper expresses the need to address “guard misconduct, [and the] overuse of solitary confinement,”  among other issues. The reporter tells Piper:

It’s not like no one’s covering this it’s just that nobody cares. Listen, do I lie awake fantasizing about personally taking down an institution that is the single greatest stain on the American collective conscience since slavery with the awesome powers of my words? Sure. But in the day time? I’ve accepted that that’s not going to happen.

In a scene between Natalie and Jason Figueroa, it is hinted that Natalie is embezzling money from the prison to feed her husband’s campaign for state senator. For the first time since the start of the series, Natalie expresses genuine concern with the prison system in the United States: “Don’t bother fixing the sentencing laws, guaranteeing a fair trial for everyone and a competent lawyer. No, let’s give ’em loofahs.” Although Jason reassures his wife that upon his election he will work on fixing these things because they are “the good guys,” we must remember that they are also the ones embezzling money from the prison system that they are trying to fix. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

Although the reporter attempts to enlist Piper to do the dirty work for him, Piper says she refuses to get involved with a furlough request on the line and the possibility of SHU, especially when her grandmother doesn’t have much time left.  She’s not about to play “high-stakes Harriet the spy” with this kind of opportunity up for approval.

On a smaller scale of human rights, Brook Soso complains about the lack of dietary accommodations that Litchfield provides. All of her complaints about the agro-business complex compel Poussey to tell Brook that she’s a victim of the prison-business complex, and that’s the one she should be worrying about (that’s the one I’m worrying about after all).


Litchfield: A Comedy

  • Sophia Burset: “I think a nice faux-hawk will give that ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe, you know?”
  • Gloria Mendoza: “I mostly use my face for that.”


  • Red [handing Sophia gummy bears]: “This covers this.” [Motions to hair]
  • Sophia: “You ever been kissed by a six-foot, black, transgender woman?”
  • Red: “I’m good, thanks.”


Taystee offers Miss Rosa a cigarette.
Miss Rosa: “You cannot be serious.”


Gloria Mendoza: “A bunch of Latinas can’t make decent rice and beans. What’s wrong with this picture?”


Jimmy’s husband that she’s been talking about is actually Joe Caputo.


  • Joe Caputo: “For instance, this shot-quota thing we got going. You ladies think we’re being mean. But we’re just doing our job, you know. Things get out of hand, it’s band for everybody.”
  • Piper: “That’s kind of what fascists say.”
  • Joe: “I may  be related to Mussolini on my mother’s side. [Beat] It’s a joke.”


Sam Healy [after reading the walrus comic, which is about him]: “That walrus is hilarious.”



Works Cited

Nuwer, Rachel. “How OITNB Flubbed Compassionate Release.” The Daily Beast. Daily Beast Company, 13 June 2014. Web. 6 July 2014.


Samules, Jr., Charles E. “Compassionate Release/Reduction in Sentence:
Procedures for Implementation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 3582(c)(1)(A) and 4205(g).”
12 Aug. 2013. PDF file. <>.


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