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Orange is the New Black vs. Tent City

If you've seen Orange is the New Black, you probably think the inmates on the show have it rough. Seen from the perspective of new inmate Piper Chapman, the show chronicles life behind bars in a minimal security prison on the East Coast. There are stabbings, brutal beatings, inmate abuse from Correctional Officers, and more, and the show has only spanned the first half of Chapman's sentence so far. When Chapman first arrives, she accidentally makes a comment about the terrible front of the woman who runs the kitchen. As punishment, she is denied food until she can find a way to make things right.

Cast members from Orange is the New Black accept a LOGO Trailblazer Award
Photo by Andrew H. Walker

Many audience members wonder just how true to life the show is, though. Orange is the New Black is based loosely on true events, after all. So is this really what prison is like?

For one local woman, the answer is no. After spending time in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's famous Tent City after a DUI offense, a former inmate commented anonymously that the Orange is the New Black prison is more "like the Hilton."

She went on to say, "I think it looks very cushy. I mean, they just walk around and chit chat all day. It actually seems kind of nice- like camp or something."

"I know it's supposed to be minimum security- but wow," she said.

The show, which has been nominated for multiple Emmys under the Comedy banner, is one rich in diversity and real, well-developed characters. Instead of just keeping the narrative within the prison walls, viewers are given an inside look at the lives of these women before and during their incarcerations. It is just as likely to make someone cry as it is to make them laugh, but that's the mark of a truly excellent show.

The humor and drama come from some very intense situations, many of which test the characters' desires to go on living. Even still, it has been dubbed mild by at least one former Tent City inmate. At least Litchfield is indoors, after all.

So, there you have it. If watching Orange is the New Black wasn't already enough to deter viewers from committing crimes, that ought to do it, especially for anyone in Arizona.

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