Prison culture has always maintained a consistent presence in films and on television. How could it not? For most, the concept of serving time in prison is like trying to imagine living in an ulterior universe. And you know what? It pretty much is. Hollywood tends to throw a funny filter on prison life for comedic purposes but the reality of life behind bars is far more complex and devastating than it is so often portrayed on the screen. While we can't always rely on Hollywood to provide us with an authentic account of our society's serious incarceration issues, we can always count on the Internet to delve into the darker sides of reality. Here are 10 realities of prison culture that movies and television shows downplay, laugh off, or just completely ignore.
When it comes to exploring the realities of prison culture, the film industry has taken a lighter approach.
You may notice that many films and television series do not necessarily fall under the theme of “drama.” Rather, often times, they are considered comedies. Sometimes there’s some drama, even good drama, interweaved into the plot, but there is always a lighter dose of comic relief that saves the viewer from getting too deep into the dark reality of prison life.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m a serial binge-watching-an-entire-season-in-one-day-then-feeling-bummed-for-the-next-three-days-because-I-invested-so-much-into-it-and-now-it’s-just-over Orange is the New Black fan.
But films and television shows often perpetuate a soft-lit version of the troubling American epidemic.
We’ve all watched a show or movie that portrayed prison life as humorous on some level. It’s understandable that as a society we are intrigued by the foreign constructs of prison and that we prefer to satiate our natural curiosities without requiring a prescription for an antidepressant (or a second one) after we’ve learned a thing or two about life in prison.
Your TV probably has you imagining prison visits beginning with a visitor picking up a phone and ending with them hanging it up. Considering that this is all most scenes of prison visitation show, it’s not hard to understand why people might not have the first clue about what a visit to prison actually entails.
Notice how in this scene of “New Adventures of Old Christine,”Julia Loius Dreyfus just strolls into the visitation room, casually signs in and heads over to visit her friend.
Yeah, no. Not even close to reality.
In reality, visiting a prison is a long, arduous, and disillusioning process.
via: Getty Images
Before one actually sees the person they are visiting, they are required to fill out paperwork, wait through insanely long lines, provide identification, get it verified, undergo body and property searches, take a series of bus rides shuttling visitors from different sectors, security levels, and visiting yards, only wait for their loved one to then also be processed, searched, and bused to the visiting location. All of this takes place at an abhorrently slow speed.
In reality, prison visits aren’t all teary phone calls separated by plate glass; they are a serious pain in the ass.
2) Dress Code
via: Getty Images
Don’t wear blue, or black, or white or color, no short sleeves, nothing remotely sheer, nothing with a zipper, button, or hood. No sandals, no heels, no boots, no jewelry, no hair clips, no bras with underwires, no denim, nothing tight, nothing too baggy… the list goes on, and on, and on.
Let’s just say that Caroline from “Two Broke Girls” may not have any trouble getting into TVLand prison but in the real world, she ain’t making it past the prison parking lot in this getup.