Yeah, you could say I enjoy Orange is the New Black.
I'm still laughing at this scene.
A while back, I was scrolling around on the little blogging website known as Tumblr dot com when I came across a post talking about OITNB and the prison industrial complex. If you're unfamiliar with the term, here's a definition from criticalresistance.org:
It's always harder to find resources/info that have to do with Canada. I find that Canadians tend to think that we're so perfect up here, that we don't have all the same problems with racism/sexism/all-the-other-isms that they have going on down in the US of A. From an article on the CBC from 2013:
Here's a link to a great interview on Upping the Anti about prison abolition in Canada if you're interested in some further reading.
Anyways, back to this post on Tumblr. It was kind of one of those self-righteous, shamey posts that mean well but usually make me cringe. I can't find the original or I would link it here. Basically, it was saying that if you enjoy Orange is the New Black, you should make an effort to understand the prison industrial complex. It offered a link to blackandpink.org, and LGBTQ prison abolition site.
So while I wasn't a huge fan of the tone of the post, I agreed with the sentiment. I visited Black and Pink and read about their LGBTQ Prisoner Pen Pal program. Basically, a lot of people who are incarcerated for long periods of time lose touch with people in the outside world. They often lose their support systems. By writing to them, and hopefully forging a friendship, you can be a bright spot for them on mail days.
As mentioned above, prisons are disproportionately full of queer people and people of colour. There are many trans folks incarcerated in facilities that are not gender affirming. Imagine if Sophia from OITNB was stuck in a men's prison.
I chose three people to correspond with from a database thousands. Now, I'm in a unique position as a Canadian living in a border town. I have a PO box in the US that I can use to avoid paying extra for postage. Also, I can understand how giving out your home address to someone in prison might squick some people out. I've looked into pen pal programs in Canada but I haven't been able to find any that seemed reputable or weren't affiliated with a religious organization.
I've been writing back and forth with my pen pals for a couple months now and it's been a great experience. I've certainly learned a lot about what it's actually like to be incarcerated. It's no Netflix dramedy, to say the very least.
I like writing snail mail. I like talking with people of varying experiences. I like knowing that I can provide some comfort to people who haven't had the privileges I've had in life.
If you'd like to learn more about prison abolition, or if you'd like to investigate getting a pen pal or two yourself, visit Black and Pink.