Desi Piscatella (portrayed by Brad William Henke) is called for back-up from Maximum Security with his team to corral the inmates from the lake and back into the prison at the start of season 4, issuing in the era of strict rules and unethical practices.
Galina “Red” Reznikov and Gloria Mendoza note immediately that he’s a man of large stature and tangible presence, yet they wonder what he’s trying to compensate for with his overbearing demeanor. We learn that his parents sent him to gay conversion camp as a teenager, which proved to him that people do not–and cannot–change who they are. The issue with Piscatella’s mindset, however, is the fact that the inmates of Litchfield are irredeemable criminals.
Although Joe Caputo suggests that Piscatella was removed from the Men’s Maximum Security facility for a rather serious offense, we don’t know exactly why he’s landed in Litchfield’s lap. Though he’s an integral part of Litchfield, Red teases,
“Were you not smart enough, or did they just not want a fairy on the force?”
His devout loyalty to serve Caputo wins the Director of Human Activity (or the Warden, as Caputo insists is his title) over, and Caputo allows Piscatella to operate the prison while he is busy dealing with the MCC’s bullshit. Although Piscatella’s relentless demand for obedience from the prisoners appears necessary for the time being, Piscatella reveals his true colors when directing the on-campus housing project for the correctional officers.
When Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson is busy taking copious notes on the progress of the housing, as per Caputo’s orders, Piscatella asks what she could possibly be taking notes on. When she explains that she is “trying to do [her] job. Same as you, big man,” Piscatella becomes enrage, pointing out to Taystee that he does not think that they are similar in any capacity.
In attempts to deter Maria Ruiz and her plan to destroy Piper‘s panty business, Piper approaches Piscatella to ask to form a “Community Carers” program (which eventually evolves into the White Power group) to break up potential gang activity, hoping to tune into his racism. Although Piscatella agrees that her idea is good, he assures her that he “will never find you [Piper] adorable. Keep that in mind.” When the task force eventually leads to the uncovering of Ruiz’s part of the panty smuggling business and Ruiz outs Piper’s involvement to Piscatella, he refuses to believe that she could be in charge of the group she set in motion that led to this discovery, proving that Chapman’s assumptions about his racism were spot-on. Piscatella subsequently tacks on an additional three to five years to Ruiz’s sentence for her involvement because she is a potential gang leader of whom he wants to make an example.
Although he believes he’s deferred the potential gang situation, he shifts into high gear once again once Aydin’s body is unearthed in the garden. Rather than listen to Caputo’s order to wait to react, he begins picking out inmates to interrogate, including Maureen Kukudio, Kasey Sankey, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, and Red.
These interrogations pave the way for C.O. Thomas Humphrey to instigate a fight between the prisoners after forcibly removing a chair from under a sleeping inmate (Kasey Sankey). Once this behavior is apprehended and Caputo attempts to suspend Humphrey for a month without pay, Piscatella threatens to withdraw his entire staff of officers if Caputo moves forward with Humphrey’s suspension, officially overpowering Caputo. Though he may answer to Caputo, he is able to intimidate him to the point where he is no longer a viable source of authority and order.
Piscatella asserts further force when the inmates stage their peaceful protest in the cafeteria, calling back up to get the women down from the tables and benches to break up the protest. Once the situation gets out of control, leading to Poussey Washington‘s untimely and unjust death, Piscatella tries to convince Caputo that Washington somehow deserved to die as a result of her disobedience.
Caputo, now fed up with Piscatella’s incessant power-plays, threatens to further investigate why he was moved from the Men’s Maximum Security facility in order to ruin his career and remove him from corrections.
Seeing as season 5 is going to be one giant riot (which is rumored to take place just over the course of three days), we can assume that Piscatella is going to cause further damage to the women of Litchfield. It will likely be too little time for Caputo to ensure his removal from the prison.