What really goes on in female prisons? It’s a curiosity such as this that sparked so much interest in a show like ‘Orange Is The New Black’. But we have to ask, is there really any truth to what we see in the show? In the end, the only real way to know is by getting these dark stories right from the prisoners themselves. Those who have experienced the reality of female prisons will tell you that Hollywood gets some things right, but plenty of things wrong too. The truth is that crazy situations occur in female prisons, and some of them are so shocking that TV shows would never include them in their stories.
So take a trip inside an all-female prison, witness what goes on behind closed doors and steel bars, and hear all the gossip that’s passed between inmates and guards. It’s definitely a fascinating world and one that is very much different from a male prison. Some of these stories are simply jaw-dropping…
15. Pregnant Women Are In Prison Too – And They FightOne of the most disturbing things about all-female prisons is the fact that there are many pregnant women behind bars. And as anyone can tell you, pregnant women can be just as angry and unpredictable as other women. In fact, they can often be more emotional due to all the hormones. And as one inmate remembers, they get into fights just like other female inmates.
This ex-inmate tells a story about her first day in prison, where she was put in a cell with an elderly lady and a pregnant woman. She woke up to witness a stunning scene: “The first day I was there I got assigned a bunk next to an old woman and a pregnant girl. I decided to knock out after being in the holding cell for a long time. I woke up to these two crazy b*****s fighting. One of them grabs a cup of boiling water and pours it on the other.”
14. Orange Is The New Black Has The Race Factor WrongMost people know that in male prisons, ethnicity is very important. As soon as you enter the prison as a male, you are expected to interact pretty much exclusively with members of your own race. Your race protects you, and different groups have their own spots in the yard which they “own.”
But this doesn’t really happen to the same degree in women’s prisons. One inmate admits: “Race lines aren’t as segregated as in men’s prison. Yeah, it exists but there were lots of mixed couples and I only saw ‘gang-related activity’ once or twice. Most of my friends in prison were black (I’m white).”
13. Orange Is The New Black Is NOT Accurate At All
Many people praise Netflix’s show Orange Is The New Black for its realism and accuracy. But according to one prison guard, the show is actually not very accurate at all. However, many fans of the show are willing to forgive these little inaccuracies in favor of an entertaining show. As the real Piper, herself says, the show would be pretty boring otherwise.
12. The Prettier Inmates Are More Likely To Be Abused
One inmate describes recognizing the victim of the assault after she got out: “I was at a show with my boyfriend and I see this really pretty blonde girl go by. I yell ‘Hey! Tiffany!’ So a friend of ours is all ‘Wow… she’s cute… where do you know her from?’ It broke his heart when I told him about the assault.
11. Lice Is Common And The Solution Only Makes Matters WorsePrisons are known for being pretty dirty, and many inmates get lice as a result. The conditions for lice are pretty perfect in prisons because people are crowded in with each other in close quarters. It’s not just a problem with lice, but also various diseases and infections, especially given the fact that they all shower together. But the craziest thing is that there’s somewhat of a catch-22 when it comes to lice.
In her own words, the inmate explained: “I had lice for 3 months because they wouldn’t give me enough of that shampoo to kill them all. The infirmary told me to just ‘cut my hair.’ What’s funny about that, is that if I HAD cut my hair, I would’ve been charged with an escape attempt because radically changing one’s hair is considered ‘Altering Your Appearance.’”
10. A Girl Got Attacked With A PadlockFemale prisons might not be as violent as male prisons, but they definitely have their moments. When asked to rate the severity of conflicts out of 10, most guards answered either 5 or 6, but all of them recalled that there was a high frequency of conflict. “I saw a girl get hit in the face with a padlock. The girl had it in her palm and walloped her across the face. Her retina detached and her temple was shattered.”
So if you think female prisons are safe and violence-free, think again. Some women are in there for violent crimes, and they can get pretty angry if you push them hard enough. The violence might not be as widespread or as extreme as in male prisons, but there are definitely exceptions.
9. Prison Guards Really Can Be ScumbagsOne of the things people are most interested in when it comes to female prisons is the relationship between prisoners and guards. This is probably the most common “fantasy” many people have about female prisons, but as it turns out, most guards take their job very seriously. However, other correctional officers definitely abuse their position of power, and there are countless examples of this from people who have actually been incarcerated. One female inmate even reveals that a prison guard stole her Social Security Card in order to get a loan for college!
The inmate explains: “Another officer stole my Social Security card (we could have them mailed to us a few months before we were released) and used it to get a loan for a local college. I got the bill for the class she took while I was locked up. She signed up for the class, never paid for it or showed up for it and pocketed the money. I had to call the college when I get out and explain how that wasn’t me because I was unavailable to the general public for appearances at that time.”
8. Relationships Between Guards And InmatesWe know that guards sometimes abuse their power. But what about the thing that everyone wants to hear about? You know what I’m talking about: guards having inappropriate romantic relationships with their inmates. As despicable as it is, it still ends up happening, and more than one ex-inmate at a female prison can attest to this. One inmate describes a particularly shocking example and explains that the act technically qualifies as assault.
The inmate recalls: “Back just a few years ago our chief of security was discovered to have been having s*x with offenders in his private office. He got 10 years for that, 5 suspended. Since we opened (it was a fairly new prison) we have had, I believe, 17 male officers get fired for having ‘carnal knowledge’ with an offender. In my state, offenders cannot consent so it is considered actually. If an offender propositions us we are supposed to write a ‘charge,’ which is basically a reprimand that can carry a vast range of penalties.”
7. Fights Get Out Of HandWe’ve already heard how female prisoners can get just as vicious as male prisoners on occasion. Getting a padlock to the face is not your average catfight. One of the most common places for fights to break out is in the “chow,” or cafeteria. The weapon of choice in these situations is usually a food tray, which can be pretty deadly in the right hands. One guard tells a story of a particularly wild fight, in which a correctional officer and an inmate ended up getting handcuffed together by mistake!
The guard recalls: “We had a fight in the chow hall between two black offenders. We all rushed in and broke it up but the two offenders were still struggling. One officer, a white woman, was trying to help restrain one of the offenders and another officer accidentally handcuffed one of the offender’s arms to the officer’s arm. The officer who did the handcuffing didn’t “miss.” He legitimately thought he was handcuffing the two arms of an offender together. It was hilarious to see one black arm handcuffed to a white arm and it just goes to show you that sometimes you don’t think straight in the heat of the moment.”
6. Crazy Escape AttemptsWomen are just as desperate to get out of prison as men, and just like their male counterparts, some especially desperate inmates attempt to escape. It’s always astonishing when you hear about prison escape attempts, as it shows just how resourceful humans can become when they find themselves in a terrible situation. One inmate tells a story of a fellow prisoner who devised a clever and incredibly risky escape attempt. No one really knew about her plan until the last possible second, and her plan fell apart.
In the words of a fellow inmate, here’s how she tried to escape: “There was an offender being transported to the hospital at 1 AM because she had swallowed some floor-stri*per. The officers took her to the nearest hospital but they were flooded with patients from a nearby church who had had a potluck dinner and gotten very nasty food-poisoning from it. The officers had to take her to another hospital. Half an hour after they went to a different hospital, a man strides in and asks which room the offender was in. The nurse thought it was suspicious and called some sheriff’s deputies who came to question him. They searched his car and found a loaded shotgun in it with a lot of shells. He confessed that he was planning on breaking her out of the hospital and stopping anyone in his way with the shotgun. She had written him a letter telling him that she was going to be at the hospital at this date and time by swallowing some floor stri*per and he agreed to come and get her.
5. Self-Harm Does HappenSuicides are perhaps some of the most shocking incidents in any prison, whether that facility holds male or female inmates. And it does happen in both prisons. Sometimes being behind bars for years and years can get to be too much for many to bear. Despite measures taken to prevent suicide attempts, people still find a way. But one prison guard tells a story that suggests that simply being in prison wasn’t enough to push one woman to take her own life. According to the guard, this particular woman took her own life because of romantic issues. Even more surprising was the fact that it resulted from her ex-girlfriend in prison being transferred and then starting a relationship with another woman.
The guard revealed: “We have had 1 suicide “success” in our years of operations. Offender Smith (which is a made-up name for this mentally ill lady) was “dating” Offender Jones, who then got transferred to our re-entry program (6 months until they get out). Offender Jones then started to “date” another offender in the re-entry program and Smith did not know about that. Offender Jones and the other lady got out and started a full-blown relationship, and Smith got a letter from Jones telling her it was over because she had met someone else. Smith . She only had 2 more years of her sentence.”
4. Prison Guards Get Hit On… A Lot…Another confession comes not from a prison guard or an inmate, but from the wife of a correctional officer. Her husband was apparently constantly being hit on, flirted with, and even harassed. Obviously, ones first instinct might be to chuckle at something like this, but the truth is that the majority of these men are just trying to do their job. Some of them, like the US Marshals for instance, are just doing their jobs in order to move on to better careers. But while the wife revealed that her husband was flirted with, she also revealed that inmates were constantly listening to his conversations, remembering details, and even trying to manipulate them using the information they had learned.
The wife revealed, “My husband worked in both with the men’s prison he worked at eventually being turned into a women’s one. Men were more violent but also less manipulative. Women were very manipulative and petty about dumb stuff. The women were always listening, too, and would know personal information about the guards, where as the guys didn’t care. At most, the guys only ever tried to talk to him about his big dumb truck, while the women knew small details about my pregnancy, despite the fact that I never even remotely went near the prison. For the record, he never spoke with them about personal stuff, but one inmate would hear the guards talking and it would spread like wildfire. Plus, he says he had never been harassed so much in his life.”
3. What The Real Piper And Larry SayReal fans of the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black know that the character of Piper is based on a real woman. The show is actually based completely on her real experiences in prison, and it’s always amazing when stories like this have at least a shred of truth to them. It seems inconceivable that some of the things which happened in the show actually happened in real life. But you know what they say – truth is stranger than fiction. As it turns out, one person on Reddit claims to have met the real Piper and Larry, and she actually managed to speak with her. She said that Piper actually said prison was extremely boring, but the show added certain things in because nobody would want to watch a boring show about waiting around in a prison while nothing happened.
According to the Reddit user, “I met the real Piper and Larry at a conference I attended and talked to them for a while. Piper said that the show is not very much like her actual prison experience. Actually being in prison, she said, is incredibly boring. Boring, boring, boring. When Jenji was writing the show outline, she told Piper that she understands that the show is nothing like the actual experience, but if she wrote it like it actually was, no one would watch it because it would be boring boring boring. Piper and Larry were both extremely friendly and were happy to talk about the show and their own experiences at the time. Mostly, however, Piper talks about prison reform.”
2. Toilet Paper Fashion ShowsThe real Piper made it clear that the biggest challenge facing women in prison is not fights, creepy guards, or lice; It’s boredom. Being in prison is like putting your life on pause, and each day can feel like an eternity. They say time flies when you’re having fun – and so it makes sense that the boring life at the prison would pass by painfully slowly. Some females take the time to read, get degrees, or even learn new skills. But as one female inmate reveals, some days they resort to even wilder things to pass the time…
She states, “No one took my food, no one tried to molest me, no one harassed me in the showers. My cellmate was a nice girl that was a prostitute and addict. We played dominoes and cards all day. I would read. She even let me use her calling card until I got my own and I paid her back by letting her use mine. A few girls had relationships, but they are heavily frowned upon so they were kept secret. One week to pass the time because time moves so slowly in jail, the cellblock had a fashion show out of toilet paper clothes.”
1. When The Entire Prison Is Forced To Quit SmokingThere are a few luxuries that inmates are given in female prison. These offer rare distractions from the depressing situation of being incarcerated, and these luxuries are incredibly important to most inmates. The most obvious example of this is cigarettes. Those rare few moments that they can puff on a cigarette make them feel like human beings again, at least for a few moments. So you can understand what the reaction of the inmates was like when it was announced that all prisoners would be encouraged to quit smoking – forcibly. This meant they were no longer allowed to smoke, and things got a little crazy in that prison, to say the least. Everyone started to go through the withdrawal symptoms, and they were literally at each other’s throats in no time at all. In retrospect, this might not have been the best decision from the prison authorities.
The ex-female inmate recalls: “I never really had many problems, only one fight. When I originally got there we could smoke. This changed while I was there so all 30 of us had to quit smoking together, all locked up in a room together and THAT was rough. Lots of fights, and I even saw one girl take a giant bite out of another one’s side like a gremlin.”
When The Entire Prison Is Forced To Quit SmokingWomen’s facilities are often much smaller than men’s facilities and they don’t have the financial resources to house criminals according to their severity. Sometimes this is true of male prisons as well, but more often male prisons will have different dorms for the more severe, violent offenders.
In women’s prisons, the violent offenders are in with the general population. A woman with a 15-month sentence for a minor drug or non-violent robbery charge can be in the same cell as a murderer.
They Can’t Take Tampons For GrantedBelieve it or not, tampons are considered a luxury in prison, and in most prisons tampons and sanitary pads are not provided to inmates. Imprisoned women have to buy their own tampons or sanitary pads from the commissary. This is a complicated process in itself.
Unlike in “Orange is the New Black,” they can’t just go to a commissary booth and buy the products they need. Often, they need to submit order forms in advance and then hope their order gets approved. It could be over a week before a woman gets her hands on a box of tampons or sanitary pads.
Diseases Aren’t Taken Care OfThe prison system was designed for incarcerating men, which means that there are a lot of scenarios they weren’t prepared for when it comes to incarcerating women. One of those scenarios was women’s healthcare. Women are more likely than men to be suffering from chronic illnesses when they enter the prison system.
This is especially true since so many women enter the prison system because of their participation in sex work. They’re more likely to be dealing with STD’s, HIV, or Hepatitis C than men who are incarcerated. The medical centers in the prisons are not equipped with the proper resources for the ongoing treatment of these diseases and women who have them often get worse in prison.
Being Mentally Ill In A Prison Is A NightmareWomen who are imprisoned suffer high rates of mental illness. This is often due to the circumstances they have come from before getting locked up. Many of the women who end up in jail have been physically or sexually abused in the past.
Many of them suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of the abuse. Prisons don’t have the proper resources to provide treatment for their PTSD and being incarcerated is a trigger.