"Crazy Eyes," the nickname for character Suzanne Warren on Orange Is the New Black for which actress Uzo Aduba won her second Emmy last month, is probably the greatest lesson on the reality of mental illness in women behind bars.
In short, the injustice of mass incarceration is something everyone should be aware of and talking about. The impact it is having not only on inmates but also on their partners and families is a discussion we cannot continue to leave out.
One recent event held by the Osborne Association, an organization that the Foundation supports, really opened my eyes on the need to offer assistance to both incarcerated individuals and their families.
We Americans like to think of our nation as the "shining city on a hill," as a protector of human rights, a beacon for the rest of the world. The reality, however, is that widespread torture is happening today in our own country, especially in state and federal prisons and detention facilities.
Right now, there are at least 80,000 people in the United States facing that horrifying existence, including people with mental and physical disabilities, pregnant women, the elderly, and children as young as 13.
Author Piper Kerman conveys both the sense of disconnection, depression, fear and horror that must overcome anyone who has to go to prison, even if that person is a lot tougher than a thirty-five year old woman who had long since put her brief criminal past behind her.
If one more over-processed middle aged lady shouts, "I love my gays," as if we are human accessories, I am going to lose it. It is important to have our stories told, and to not discourage those in media to bother trying, but we should stand with critics in asking for a fresh angle.
Orange is the New Black isn't just popular because it's good. The fascination often comes from the knowledge that viewers are one bitter ex's dime drop away from getting in trouble for things they did when they were young, arrogant, and filled with bravado.
Orange Is the New Black has raised awareness about the prison reform movement precisely because the lead character is a middle-class white anomaly in a federal prison population that has swelled by nearly 800 percent since 1980.