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“Orange Is the New Black”: The real story of my year in a women’s prison

The next morning I and eight other new arrivals reported for a day-long orientation session, held in the smallest of the TV rooms. Among the group was one of my roommates, a zaftig Dominican girl who was an odd combination of sulky and helpful. She had a little tattoo of a dancing Mephistopheles figure on her arm, with the letters JC. I tentatively asked her if they stood for Jesus Christ—maybe protecting her from the festive devil?

She looked at me as if I were completely insane, then rolled her eyes. “That’s my boyfriend’s initials.”

Sitting on my left against the wall was a young black woman to whom I took an instant liking, for no reason. Her rough cornrows and aggressively set jaw couldn’t disguise the fact that she was very young and pretty. I made small talk, asking her name, where she was from, how much time she had to do, the tiny set of questions that I thought were acceptable to ask. Her name was Janet, she was from Brooklyn, and she had sixty months. She seemed to think I was weird for talking to her.

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