What Orange is the New Black Got Wrong About Compassionate Release...and other writings

I've started writing a weekly column for Waging NonViolence, mostly focusing on incarceration, gender and resistance. My latest is now up.

What Orange is the New Black Got Wrong About Compassionate Release

In the hit TV show, the character known as Jimmy obviously suffers from dementia. She wanders the wards in search of her missing husband, and even manages to walk out of the understaffed prison. When she is recaptured, she mistakes the prison auditorium stage for a diving board and jumps — but instead of landing in a swimming pool, she breaks her arm on the auditorium floor. The cost and hassle of keeping Jimmy in prison is too much for prison officials, who grant her compassionate release and drop her at the bus station.

The narrative might make for dramatic television, but when stacked up to reality, the producers got the story wrong.

Contrary to what “Orange is the New Black” would have you think, compassionate release is not simply the act of taking an aging, senile person and dumping her onto the street. As a prison policy, compassionate release allows for the early release of incarcerated people who are aging or terminally ill so that they can die at home surrounded by loved ones. That’s the idea behind it, at any rate.

But in reality, many aging people, as well as those who are terminally or chronically ill, are denied any sort of release. In its quest for vengeance, the legal system would rather continue to keep them incarcerated, even if it means footing the bill for increasing medical costs. Case in point: Patricia Wright in California.

Read the entire piece here

Past posts:

Time to Speak Up: Women's Prison Resistance in Alabama

What's Gender Got to Do with Policing and Prisons?

The Untold Real-Life Story of the Prison in Orange is the New Black