With Orange is the New Black season 4 officially taking over Netflix, it’s safe to say we are hooked on the crazy and clever antics that happen in a women’s prison.
The show, at times, gets so crazy that it’s hard to remember that it is based on a real story. The show is based on a book, written by Piper Kerman about her time in prison. The show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, then took the story and fictionalized it for TV.
So, how much of OITNB is real?
Piper Kerman, known to ua as Chapman, did fall for a woman after college that happened to be caught up in a serious international drug ring. Kerman did manage to smuggle $10,000 from Chicago to Brussels, Belgium, and finally got indicted 10 years later. She was sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security prison in Danbury, Connecticut. She served 13 months, and was released in 2005. So the fictional and real life Piper are not all that different. However, the prison in the show is located in New York, not Connecticut.The real life Piper never got to go home for a couple of days or say goodbye when her grandmother died. Piper also never served anytime in the SHU (security housing unit, or solitary confinement).
Before the sentence in the show, Piper is engaged to Larry Bloom, but the two become estranged during her time in prison while she rekindles things with Alex and he starts up with Piper’s married best friend Holli. In real life, Larry Smith (not Bloom) wasn’t nearly as annoying and he and Piper got married in 2006 and are still happily together.
Larry did write an article for the New York Times but it was titled “A Life to Live, This Side of the Bars” in real life (Unlike in the show, where it was titled “One Sentence, Two Prisoners”). It was also published in 2010, after Piper was released from prison, not during her stay like in the show.
“Phone calls were a one-way street, from inside to out. When my phone rang with “unknown number” on the screen, I knew it was her and that the words, “This is a call from a federal prison,” would soon follow. Missing that call while in the subway, or answering it while at a party filled with happy people, broke my heart for different reasons.”
You can read his full article here.
Some of the characters in the show are taken directly from the book as well, a woman named Pop would give her advice,much like Red does in the show and there really was a trans woman residing in the prison.
Piper did actually become an electrician and yes, they apparently did use maxipads for everything!
“I had learned a lot since arriving in prison ﬁve months ago: how to clean house using maxipads, how to wire a light ﬁxture, how to discern whether a duo were best friends or girlfriends, when to curse someone in Spanish, knowing the difference between “feelin’ it” (good) and “feelin’ some kinda way” (bad), the fastest way to calculate someone’s good time, how to spot a commissary ho a mile away, and how to tell which guards were players and which guards were noth-in’ nice. I even mastered a recipe from the prison’s culinary canon: cheesecake.” – Kerman.
OITNB is on Netflix now, so go! Binge!