PELAGE, Miss Claudette

Miss Claudette Pelage (portrayed by Michelle Hurst) is one of only two inmates referred to with a title (Miss Rosa being the other), which goes to show the level of respect that the inmates have for her. When Lorna Morello is showing Piper, Janae Watson, and Daya Diaz around Litchfield, they pass Miss Claudette. Lorna explains that “you don’t want to get on her bad side.”

She has been in prison “a really long time” and legends surround her concerning the fact that she “hasn’t dookied since she got here” (Poussey); word is she killed someone. Even so, Poussey calls her “voodoo mambo” and Tricia Miller calls her an “OG.”

At a young age, Claudette was brought to an orphanage/girl’s home to work to “pay off her parents’ debt.” The woman in charge when she first enters the home is adamant about keeping the home and the girls clean and tidy. The boy that brought her to the woman running the place, Jean Baptiste, promises her that he “won’t let anything bad happen” to her. We understand that Miss Claudette remains in the home for so long that she becomes the woman in charge of all the girls, and her intimate friendship with Baptiste continues. Along with the role of head of house, she adopts the strict attitude, which carries over into prison life with her demands of keeping a tidy cell. When he brings home his newly-wedded wife, Josephine, she comments how she respects Claudette for running a girls’ home even though she can’t have children of her own. Perhaps this is why Baptiste never marries her.

While in her position as head of the home, she discovers that one of their clients has been physically abusing one of the girls. She keeps the girl back and goes to clean the man’s house herself. Along with cleaning the home, she “cleans up” the world by ridding it of one more creep, thereby confirming that Miss Claudette is in jail for murder.

Miss Claudette works in the kitchen, which is interesting considering the fact that knives are available and she went to jail for human trafficking. Even so, her act of murder compels Red to specifically instruct one of the girls to find someone to replace Mercy’s spot in the kitchen who hasn’t been convicted of stabbing someone.

She has never taken a visitor until Baptiste contacts her after Josephine’s death. This rekindles her feelings for Baptiste, leading her to consider reopening her case for release. Despite her warnings to Piper about hope “[being] a dangerous thing,” she dares to dream of being released from prison. When her appeal is turned down, she snaps and attacks C.O. Fischer when the young guard tries her hand at giving an inmate a shot, landing her in MAX to never return again.

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