Reflections on Orange is the New Black
When I was released from jail, I searched the internet for news stories about my case, curious what kind of mark would be left on my name from the four months I had served.
The local paper in Minneapolis had written an article titled “Stuck 3 months in Iowa jail for refusal to testify.” The story was fairly sympathetic, quoting both of my parents and my lawyer, and referred to me at one point as a “hero to scores of animal rights defenders around the world”. The comment section, however, was full of diatribes about my terrorist affiliations and assertions that I should rot in prison. Nestled amongst them was an enigmatic quote posted by my mother:
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.
It’s a quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, about his experiences in a Russian prison. My mom said that she believed I had learned this during my time in jail.
She was right. People in prison are some of the most heavily classified and marginalized in our society – losing their very names to the categories of “inmate,” “convict,” and “criminal.” I went through that process of dehumanization with women from backgrounds totally different from my own, and in a strange way it reaffirmed for me our shared humanity. I was able to see that people are just people, and they’re just trying to get by as best they can.