Orange is the New Black, but will it lead to increased activism around prison reform? We sure hope so.

a kitchen table conversation with Kati Henderson and Megan Moskop
 
If you’re like us, you’ve been watching Orange is the New Black.  If you aren’t like us, jump on this bandwagon. The netflix series is funny, but (we would argue) more importantly, it calls attention to a serious, and seriously neglected societal problem.
The show reminds us that our prison system actually IS corrupt.  Our prisons actually ARE unsafe.  Our prisons ARE actually operating in counterproductive ways. Many of them are privately run and there is very little information about and oversight into how they are run.
Have you gotten to the end of the series yet?  We won’t spoil it…but it is bleak.
Real prisons are bleaker.
Psychology research shows that punishments like solitary confinement are not only ineffective but actually lead to increased psychological damage and heightened conflicts. (If you’re into brain science, like Kati, read more about that here: http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/11/voices-from-solitary-a-sentence-worse-than-death/)
The number of prisoners in our country is HUGE, and its growing.  The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration of ANY country in the world, greatly surpassing Russia, Iran, Cuba, and many other countries “we Americans” often claim moral superiority over.
We’ve heard a lot about the 1% and the 99%, but what about the almost-one-percent (.7%) of our countries citizens who are in jail, RIGHT NOW?  Even republicans are writing about this Human Rights issue (but without using the words “human rights,” of course).
To learn more about how to get involved with progressive prison reform, check out non-profits The Correctional Association and The Sentencing Project.
And if you spend a lot of time thinking about education issues, like Megan, you may already be well informed about the connection between de-humanizing school disciplinary codes and later incarceration.  To learn more about the school-to-prison pipeline, and steps that can be taken to help vulnerable youth learn positive problem solving skills, join her at to the premier of “Growing Fairness” a documentary by New York City Public School teachers  a project designed to help school communities shift their culture from punitive to positive. 
Bottom Line:  America is not doing enough to better or even maintain the lives of the millions of citizens it’s requiring to be in its care, and it is costing us millions.  Let’s get involved and interrupt this cycle.