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TV to Watch: Orange Is the New Black

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

The new Netflix  drama/comedy series “Orange Is the New Black” features Sam Healy, a prison social worker who is jaded by the criminal justice system and has an obsession with keeping inmates from participating in lesbian sex.

Actor Michael Harney portrays prison social worker Sam Healy on "Orange Is the New Black."

Actor Michael Harney portrays prison social worker Sam Healy on “Orange Is the New Black.”

Healy is portrayed by actor Michael Harney, a journeyman actor who has appeared in a variety of well-regarded TV series, including “Deadwood” on HBO, “Weeds” on Showtime, and ABC’s “NYPD Blue.”

On the premiere episode of “Orange Is the New Black” he tries to help Piper Chapman (actress Taylor Schilling) get used to life in a federal penitentiary for women in New York state.

Chapman is a 30-something, white, middle class woman who is sentenced to 15 months in prison when her youthful involvement with an international drug cartel comes back to haunt her.

She has to leave behind a caring fiance, a budding artisan soap business, and luxuries such as shopping for organic products at Whole Foods.

“You know I’ve been here for 22 years and I still can’t figure out how the system works,” a caring but brusque Healy tells Chapman. “I got a crack dealer who is doing 9 months and I have a lady who accidentally backed into a mailman who is doing four years. I mean the guy broke his collar bone but come on. I just don’t get it.”

Healy is portrayed as a social worker who cares about inmates but is caught in the middle between the prison’s budget conscious administration and the women he serves.

For instance, he has to tell a transgender person who has transitioned from male to female that the prison can no longer supply her hormonal medications. And another prison administrator chides Healy by saying inmates tricked nhim into helping them get a new freezer for the kitchen.

Healy is dealing with issues himself. According to the reports about the program he is in a relationship with an immigrant who is waiting to get a green card. And he seems to be uncomfortable with lesbians.

“They (lesbians) will try to be your friend just stay away from them,” he warns Chapman. “I want you to understand you do not have to have lesbian sex. You just keep to yourself and you’ll be fine.”

All 13 episodes of the first season of “Orange Is the New Black” are available to Netflix subscribers. SocialWorkersSpeak.org is interested in what you think about the program and the social worker character. Please email comments to gwright@naswdc.org.

 

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