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'Orange Is the New Black' Jail Sued Over Filthy Conditions

By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 13, 2014 9:26 AM

The real-life jail that was used as the set for Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black" is being sued for being even more disgusting than the prison depicted on the show.

The series has been shot in part at Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead, New York, which is being sued by the New York Civil Liberties Union for water and sewage problems that might make you re-think what happened in Season 2.

So what exactly is going on at the "Orange Is the New Black" jail?

Suffolk County Jail Isn't Like Summer Camp

While the second season of "OINTB" just dropped last Friday, the NYCLU has been fighting deplorable conditions in Suffolk County's jails for more than two years now. Corey Stoughton, an attorney with the NYCLU, told MSNBC that the inmates in these facilities are "treated like animals."

The NYCLU filed a suit based on these "dehumanizing conditions" in federal court in April 2012, consolidating hundreds of federal suits by individual detainees. Inmates are legally entitled to sue when conditions in prisons or jails approach cruel and unusual punishment, but these suits don't have a great success rate.

In its suit against Suffolk County and its sheriff, the NYCLU alleges the following conditions existed at the Riverhead and Yaphank facilities:

  • Sewage bubbling up from shower drains (as depicted in "OINTB");
  • "Ping-Pong toilets" (when one is flushed, waste emerges from another);
  • Black mold in showers;
  • Mold-caked air vents that provide little ventilation;
  • Roach, spider, and fly infestations;
  • Kitchens and dining areas infested with rodents;
  • Lack of air conditioning in summer and heat in winter; and
  • Brown, illness-causing drinking water.

These allegations make these two jails seem much worse than the fictional Litchfield prison.

Real-Life Facilities Are Jails, Not Prisons

Even Piper Chapman knows the difference between jail and prison, but viewers might not notice the difference between the "OITNB" prison and a real-life jail. The settings are often the same, including the decrepit conditions, but the inmates themselves are different.

Unlike the residents of Litchfield federal prison, those in custody at Riverhead may not even be convicts. The NYCLU has a #HumanityIsTheNewBlack hashtag campaign that notes "most people at the OINTB jail haven't been convicted of a crime." Rather, inmates there are often too poor to pay bail while they await trial for criminal charges.

Perhaps the success of "OITNB" will give this issue the exposure it needs to reform conditions in Suffolk County.

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