What Hillary Clinton's Stance On Prison Reform Would Mean For These 'Orange Is The New Black' Characters
Never one to disappoint, Netflix released the latest season of Orange is the New Black a few hours early on Thursday, surprising and delighting fans. OINTB has been immensely popular during its first two seasons with its depiction of the lives of women in prison. The timing of season three converges with the full-swing presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, who, of course, has always been outspoken about her views on women's rights, crime, and LGBT issues. So — what if Clinton were president in the fictionalized world of Piper, Sophia, and the rest of the crew at Litchfield? As it turns out, Clinton's policies would have a significant impact on OITNB characters.
Shortly after kicking off her 2016 campaign, Clinton gave a powerful speech about prison reform and the need to improve the way police work with communities. She commented on the fact that there are nearly 20 million prisoners in American prisons today, and that one in 28 children has a parent in prison, placing strains on communities and families heavily affected by high incarceration rates. But it's not just topics related specifically to prison policies that have an impact on prisoners — and, by extension, the multifaceted characters of OITNB. The show depicts issues that include capital punishment, drugs, and rights for transgender and minority Americans. Let's examine the ways Clinton's stance on prison reform and other issues would potentially change the experience of some fan favorites on OITNB.
Sentencing for drug offenders: Nicky
We need diversion, like drug courts. Non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system.
In this statement during the Democratic primary debate in 2007, Clinton advocated that non-violent offenders, particularly for drug related crimes, should not serve hard sentences in prison. For "Orange is the New Black" character Nicky Nichols, this could have meant avoiding prison altogether. It is not entirely clear why Nicky is serving time in Litchfield, but given that we know quite a bit about her history and struggles with drug addiction, we can safely assume she's in for drug-related charges.
Transgender rights: Sophia
Clinton hasn't said all that much specifically about transgender rights, but while serving as Secretary of State, Clinton acted to allow transgender Americans to change their gender designation on their passports, saying in a statement:
It was part of the overall efforts to try to treat people with dignity and equality... And when I had responsibility for the well-being of the 70,00 people or so employees around the world who worked for the State Department and USAID, I had the opportunity through executive action to recognize that there were barriers and vestiges to discrimination that had no place in a modern American workplace, and so I acted.
It remains to be seen what sort of platform Clinton will have in regards to healthcare and benefits for trans Americans like Sophia Burset (played by Laverne Cox). Clinton has taken a strong stance in favor of gay rights and equality, so it will be very interesting to see what else she will do to advocate for the trans* community.
Tougher sentences for repeat offenders: Taystee
We need more police. We need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders.
In 1994 while Bill Clinton was president, Hillary advocated for harsher sentencing for repeat offenders. Taystee has said that she's been in and out of the prison system her whole life, and we've seen her leave and come back once already on OITNB. At least back in the 90s, this could have meant even more time behind bars for Taystee.
Death penalty: Miss Claudette, Gina
Again while acting as First Lady in the mid-90s, Clinton advocated for President Clinton's bill that expanded the list of crimes that would be subject to the death penalty. She also publicly supported the death penalty in her 2000 senatorial campaign.
Over in Litchfield, we know that Miss Claudette killed a man for abusing a young girl who was working as an indentured servant, but it's not clear that she was convicted for that crime, or for her involvement with forced child labor. There are also rumors in Litchfield that Gina, member of Red's posse, is in for murder. Certain murders were considered a capital offense in New York state until the death penalty was banned in the state altogether in 2007, which means the Clinton stance on capital punishment certainly could have affected some of the OITNB inmates.
Advocacy for struggling families: Maria
In 2012, Clinton gave a moving speech at a breakfast for the New York Women's Foundation about her own mother's challenging upbringing, and the lessons she learned about kindness from her mother's struggles. OITNB's Maria gave birth to her baby girl while serving her time in Litchfield, and we saw her very painful depression play out after she was separated from her newborn.
Many other characters on the show are portrayed as having difficult childhoods: Taystee, Tricia, and Daya are just a few more whose parents were absent and were unable to financially provide for their families. Clinton, knowing that her own mother faced difficulties as a child, has been outspoken regarding the need to support and assist families in need.
Images: Giphy, Netflix