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“Orange is the New Black” author: Prison wastes time, human potential and money

"Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan’s new Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black" became an instant hit this summer, due at least in part to the show’s unique premise: a dramatic comedy set inside a female minimum security prison. "Orange" brings incarcerated women into America’s living rooms, where viewers embrace the characters as people with strengths and flaws — a stunning difference from the portrayal of prisoners in shows like "Lock Up."

Told from the perspective of Piper Chapman, an upper-middle-class white woman thrust into a world typically reserved for the less privileged, "Orange" presents a racially diverse, nearly all-female cast that explores the complexity of female characters rarely seen on television. When Chapman is sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for a crime she committed a decade earlier — delivering money for an international drug cartel — she finds herself part of an underclass "nice blond ladies" like herself are usually exempt from. Using Chapman’s (often nauseatingly annoying) privilege as a reference point, the show reveals the blurred lines between choice and chance, raising questions about notions of justice in America.

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