In Orange Is The New Black Season 5, the inmates of Litchfield are finally in control. They have successfully taken over the prison, and everyone is using the riot as an opportunity to change their current situation. And the list of demands from the Orange is the New Black inmates is long. SPOILERS for Season 5 ahead.
At the end of Season 4, it's clear the riot began as a response to Poussey's death at the hands of C.O. Bayley. However, with the return of Season 5, the riot has shifted in purpose. Taystee, Alison, Cindy, and Janae take Caputo hostage in his office to film him admitting that Poussey was murdered — justice is always their number one concern. Unfortunately, they fail to make the video go viral. Meanwhile, Ruiz, using Daya and her gun, have taken the rest of the C.O.s hostage inside the chapel, and they have their own agenda: Revenge.
Eventually, Alison tells everyone at dinner that they need to start making demands from the administration. "We can do this two ways," she tells the rest of the inmates. "One, like a bunch of animals, like how they treat us. Or two, like civilized human beings, like how we want them to treat us."
It's a powerful moment of agency for Litchfield because it gives the women a chance to address what they feel is missing in order to be treated as "civilized human beings."
Taystee is set on justice for Poussey, but the list of demands from all prisoners are vast, showing a few cracks in the potential united front, due to the different personalities and agendas at Litchfield.
In an interview with NPR, scholar Heather Ann Thompson addressed what she feels are the leading causes of prison riots: "Throughout American history, prisoners have always demanded the most basic human rights. They're not asking to get out. They're not asking for anything particularly outrageous, things like decent food or — for institutions to stop using solitary confinement in such a punitive fashion and an ability to re-enter society with some degree of education."
In the case of Litchfield, a majority of the demands were also for a better standard of living:
- Amnesty, at Gloria's insistence
- Better healthcare
- Fire the guards, which Janae reports received the most votes
- Reinstate the GED program
- Free tampons
- Fresh vegetables
- No more random cavity searches
- Access to compentent lawyers
- End of SHU
- Conjugal visits
- Equal treatment
- Better jobs
- Better care for the elderly
Some, in true OITNB fashion, were sillier, or more impossible, for immediate needs:
- Netflix (Naturally!)
- Flaming Hot Cheetos, with Takis corn tortillas added at Cindy's request
- Anti-gravity chamber
- Ice cream sundae bar
- Live music
- Latin classes
While these may seem on the sillier side, these demands reflect women who are struggling for creative, positive spaces in Litchfield. Something that others take for granted, like Flaming Hot Cheetos, can be seen as representative of small moment of dignity.
As Watson reads the list of demands, Taystee suddenly realizes that what she wants isn't matching up with the rest of the inmates. The demand to "Fire Bayley" is number nine on the list. When she expresses her rage at the betrayal to Poussey's memory, Alison calmly responds with, "That's democracy." Unfortunately, Alison is right and it is this moment that is the most painful to watch: Taystee realizing she may be in this fight alone.
Whether or not the inmates of Litchfield will get all of their demands (fingers crossed for that anti-gravity chamber) still remains unseen. But this season Orange Is The New Black has given our favorite characters a well-deserved opportunity to make a big changes for themselves.