What crimes did the inmates on ‘Orange is the New Black’ commit?
The inmates of Orange is the New Black feel like old friends at this point. We’ve been with them through their low points and watched them climb back to the top, with varying levels of success. After seven seasons of prison drama, it’s time to finally say goodbye to Litchfield.
By giving a public platform to the issues women face in correctional facilities, Orange is the New Black opened the conversation into what motivates people to commit crimes in the first place and reminds us these inmates are just as human as the rest of us. The show gave us an honest look at how the prison system sets some people up to fail and naturally leaves itself open to abuse & violence.
Even if Orange is the New Black’s attempts to tackle real world issues are messy, the show still tries to bring light to things like the privatization of prisons, abuse from correctional officers, lack of supplies, and the mistreatment of people of color by America’s justice system.
At the core of the show were the inmates (excluding Piper because no one cares about her). These inmates all brought personality and entertainment to each moment, showing us how they used their time in the clink to grow as people and better themselves. They breathed life into the last few seasons of Orange is the New Black and made them somewhat bearable.
With so many inmates to follow, it’s hard to remember who’s in Litchfield for what. Some were just stupid and got caught, others were trying to better their life through not-so-legal means. To celebrate the end of the journey, here’s a reminder of who’s in prison and why.
Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)
Piper was in love with Alex and wanted to stay with her, even if that meant smuggling drug money across international borders. Of course Piper did the thing she should’ve done at the start and left the business, so years later, out of anger, Alex gives up Piper’s name during her testimony.
Thanks to Alex’s testimony, Piper ends up in Litchfield and introduces us to the crazy world we’ve been living in at Litchfield for the past seven seasons. We may hate Piper with a passion, but we gotta acknowledge the driving story force.
Alex Vause (Laura Prepon)
It’s been a while since we were first introduced to Alex’s crimes, but it’s a shame how she got into the drug trafficking trade. Desperate to meet her rock star dad, Alex snuck backstage at a show trying to meet him, but fails. Alex meets her dad’s drug dealer instead, who is her contact for the drug trafficking world.
While on her travels, Alex met Piper at a bar and roped her into the drug trafficking world as well, and while on trial for her first time in prison, she gives up Piper’s name in testimony, forcing her to get arrested. Later, Alex ends up on probation and gets early release, but tells Piper she’s gonna skip town and go into hiding. To get revenge, Piper tips off her probation officer, which causes Alex to go back to jail.
Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox)
So many of these inmates on Orange is the New Black were just trying to get a better life and ended up in jail over it. Sophia is just one of many trying to deal with the effects of getting a better life through less-than-legal means. Sophia just wanted to be comfortable in her own skin and transition, but she had to commit a little bit of credit card fraud to do so.
Sophia stole credit cards to pay for her gender reassignment surgery and hormones. Though her wife Crystal supported her and even helped her during her adjustment period, her son Michael couldn’t cope and ended up turning her over to police. Eventually Mikey does start to come around to her.
Dayanara Diaz (Dascha Polanco)
We’ll talk more about Cesar’s drug business below, but the biggest thing you need to know is after her mother Aleida got arrested, Daya took over her mother’s role in Aleida’s boyfriend Cesar’s drug business. Daya ended up in jail for similar reasons as her mother, by going down to protect Cesar.
What’s really messed up is after Daya spent her whole life having to be responsible and take care of her siblings, she still falls into her mother’s shoes and takes on the drug business. She saw how neglectful her mother was and yet chose to continue Cesar’s business anyway.
Aleida Diaz (Elizabeth Rodriguez)
Both Daya & Aleida got arrested for the same reason, but Aleida was the one who started it. Her boyfriend Cesar asked if he could set up a drug lab in her apartment and she agreed. Aleida even helped with the business, manufacturing, and finance management.
During all this, Aleida chose to ignore her kids, so Daya had to take care of them for her. In the end, Aleida took the fall for Cesar so she ended up in jail, and then Daya took over her spot in the business.
Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (Taryn Manning)
At the beginning of the show, it seems like Pennsatucky was a girl who got knocked up too many times and killed an abortion clinic worker who probably should’ve just kept his mouth shut. Then it turned out the pro-life community thought Pennsatucky did it because she was also pro-life, and came to raise money and support her in court.
It turns out Pennsatucky was taught that sex is just a cheap commodity she could use to get stuff, so she had sex with random people to get what she needed. Because of this, Pennsatucky became known as a “sleazebag” and was constantly raped by multiple people throughout her life. Her anger towards the abortion clinic worker may have been justified, as getting knocked up happened against Pennsatucky’s will.
Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne)
Nicky is very much of the “spoiled rich kid gets ignored by her parents and turns to drugs/crime” stereotype, but it helped her build a mother/daughter relationship with Red that is easily the best part of the earlier seasons. After being ignored by her mom and basically being raised by a nanny, Nicky turned to drugs.
After being a heroin addict for a while and ending up needing heart surgery due to sharing needles, Nicky finally got caught breaking into a neighbor’s apartment with a fellow druggie for heroin money. Nicky was also carrying heroin on her (because duh) so she got arrested for that as well.
Lorna Morello Muccio (Yael Stone)
Ah, lovestruck Morello – she was arrested for mail-order fraud, but her main arrest came from stalking her “fiance” Christopher. In a flashback, we finally find out that she did date Christopher at one point, but he broke it off and ended up dating another woman. Morello became obsessed with him and stalked him to the point where he got a restraining order.
Fueled with rage, Morello ended up putting a homemade bomb underneath Christopher and his girlfriend’s car. After Morello got arrested, she was also charged with ordering items online but claiming they never came so she could get her money back (mail fraud).
Galina “Red” Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew)
Red just wanted to be one of the girls. A bunch of mobsters frequented her deli, so Red tried to become friends with their wives. Of course, Red managed to screw it up, punch the mob boss’s wife in the chest, and rupture her breast implant. Red had to pay for her crimes.
As punishment, Red and her husband were forced to help the mobsters as they saw fit, including storing corpses in the deli’s meat locker. But Red impresses the boss and offers him sound advice, which allows her to slowly climb the chain in the mob. So when the mob got taken down by the cops, Red went down with them.
Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba)
Suzanne is probably one of the most misunderstood characters on the show, treated like a lunatic in the beginning but becoming one of the key players towards the end. By the time we find out why she’s in prison, we’ve opened our hearts to Suzanne and understand her situation a lot better.
Due to her mental illness, Suzanne could only work certain jobs and took on being a Walmart greeter. She befriends a small child whom she later meets again at the playground. Suzanne invited him to come back to her apartment and play video games with him, since her sister isn’t home. The child ends up getting scared and tries to escape the apartment by using the fire escape, but slips and falls to his death; Suzanne was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (Danielle Brooks)
We learn in season three – thanks to Taystee falling under godawful Vee’s spell – that she was in Vee’s drug ring on the outside, too. After going in and out of different foster homes her whole youth, Vee took her in and became her mother figure.
While in her drug ring, Taystee was a runner, but tried to get more responsibility. Taystee is quite intelligent and good at business and was interested in behind-the-scenes work, but Vee wouldn’t let her. Eventually, Taystee got caught and Vee let her go down.
Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales (Jackie Cruz)
One of the youngest inmates in Litchfield, Flaca got arrested while in high school for selling drug paraphernalia. She sold fake LSD that was just water and paper. However, one of her customers was suicidal, and while he thought he was tripping, he jumped off the roof of the high school.
Flaca still claims she was innocent, as she wasn’t selling real drugs, only fakes. She may have got a kid nearly killed though, so that counts for something.
Maritza Ramos (Diane Guerrero)
Maritza just did what we all want to do when we go to the dealership: steal a car and not listen to the haggling salespeople. After doing small-time scams at a local nightclub, one of her victims suggested Maritza pretend to be a car dealer to get a guy in a car, then pretend to be the test driver’s wife to get the car keys, and drive off once the test drive was done.
On her first try, Maritza got caught because an actual salesperson got into the car with them. Martiza resorts to plan B and pretends to be sick so they pull over, and she gets back into the car without them and drives away. It didn’t work out too well and she got caught shortly after.
Blanca Flores (Laura Gómez)
Blanca’s backstory is probably the kinkiest one out of the main Litchfield inmates, and we’re here for it. She worked as a carer for those kind of nightmare elderly clients caretakers fear, except her name wasn’t Satan, it was Millie. Blanca was lucky enough to meet her boyfriend Diablo through Millie, as he worked as Millie’s gardener.
Millie fired Diablo after finding out about their relationship because she claimed he made Blanca more distracted and not focusing enough on her work. So Blanca and Diablo did the thing that made most sense: they had sex on Millie’s bed and made her watch, since Millie can’t move or walk on her own – like we said: kinky.
After howing Millie she was the alpha in their employer/employee relationship, Blanca and Millie lived happily together for several years. Blanca even got her green card. Sadly, Millie hit a mailman while driving. Afraid of what would happen to her if Millie was convicted, Blanca helped her elderly employer clean her car of blood. Blanca is then prosecuted for this and is sentenced to Litchfield for being an accessory to manslaughter.
Gloria Mendoza (Selenis Leyva)
Another tragic victim of circumstance, Gloria was in an abusive relationship, desperate for a way out. While at her convenience store, Gloria would buy food stamps for cash so those who needed the cash could get it, and she took a cut of the profits for herself to build up an escape fund.
Gloria was about to make her grand escape when she ended up getting arrested for fraud. We see that abusive relationship still affect her in prison, as she apologizes to her boyfriend for going to jail.
Frieda Berlin (Dale Soules)
Frieda basically had a paranoid Bear Grylls for a father, so she quickly learned how to survive in the wilderness on her own. It’s never completely established how Frieda ended up in prison, but based on her skills, we can guess it was either murder or aggravated assault.
Frieda does say at one point that she cut off her husband’s member with a dull butcher’s knife, so the aggravated assault charge makes sense. Frieda also says at another point that she killed four people in one year, plus a cop, but she’s not even 100% sure she got caught for that or not. Let’s just say that if you were to end up in Litchfield, Frieda is either the person you want to stay clear of, or become best friends with for protection.
Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley)
Poussey’s crime is a well-kept secret over the course of the first four seasons. We don’t find out until after Poussey dies that she was busted for a small amount of weed found on her during a night out in New York. The most unfortunate thing about Poussey’s character is that she represents the over one million non-violent drug possession arrests a year – six times as many arrests as drug sales arrests.