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NYCLU Says the Real 'Orange is the New Black' Prison Is Worse Than on the TV Show

June 10, 2014, 2:06 am GMT

The New York Civil Liberties Union has launched a campaign called 'Humanity is the New Black' to raise awareness about condition in the real Suffolk County Jail.



The life of Piper Chapman and her fellow inmates on "Orange is the New Black" isn't as hard as the real inmates in the Suffolk County Jail, where the Netflix series is filmed, according to The New York Civil Liberties Union. NYCLU says the condition in the real jail in Riverhead is way more disgusting than on the TV show.

"In real life, the inmates in the Suffolk County Jail, they're not treated like human beings," says Corey Staughton, an attorney with the NYCLU. "They're treated like animals." Thus, the NYCLU, who together with Shearman & Sterling has been representing inmates at the New York jail, has launched a campaign called "Humanity is the New Black" to draw attention to the issues faced by incarcerated people in real life.

"What I love about the show is how good it was at drawing the characters as fully-fledged human beings, and should not be reduced to some of their crimes," Staughton adds. "It seems like our suspicion that the fans of the show would understand these issues was right, people are making the connection."

In a lawsuit filed in 2012 after inmates made more than a hundred complaints to courts about conditions at the facilities, they complained about the toilets which they refer to as "ping pong toilets," because when they are flushed they overflow into another cell, mold covered showers, and brown undrinkable water.

Stoughton says, "If you saw what we have seen and heard happening in this jail, you might think that it is Hollywood pushing it but in fact that's the reality. These are not conditions that we think any human beign should be held in."

Michael Sharkey, the chief of staff in the facility, recently said in an interview with the New Yorker, "All jails in New York State are monitored by the New York State Commission of Correction. You have to meet their standards, and we consistently meet their standards." He, however, refused to address the lawsuit.

With the surge of viewership for season 2, "OITNB" will likely draw more attention to the aforementioned issue. While Netflix never releases an actual number of its shows' viewers, illegal download in the first two days of the new season release has reached 55,668 individuals over peer-to-peer networks in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia.

It's not as big as the number of people who illegally downloaded Netflix's "House of Cards" second season earlier this year, but it shows an increase from 3,850 pirates for the first two days of the series premiere last July.

Inhumane Prison Life in Suffolk County:


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