Orange is the New Black Podcast: Q&A with Jean Casella from Solitary Watch

Welcome to Solitary Confinement 101. We chatted with Solitary Watch co-director Jean Casella about the depiction of solitary in ‘Orange is the New Black’, how solitary can alter the brain, and how we can learn more.

Throughout most of Orange is the New Black Season 4, beloved character Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox) was locked up in a small cell. Fans of the show were incredibly concerned for her as she desperately tried to make some sort of contact with the outside world.

Orange is the New Black has never shied away from illustrating life in the SHU unit. Back as early as Season 1 the show gave us a tension-filled scene with Piper (Taylor Schilling) battling on the edge of her sanity after only a few hours in isolation. Since then, the SHU has been frequently utilized as undue punishment for small or non-existent infractions on the series, and Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) persisted in her hunger strike as a direct protest to the excessive use of the SHU at Litchfield in Season 2.

This season, Sophia’s situation got me wondering about solitary confinement in the real world. Is her situation portrayed in a realistic light? What type of role does solitary play in the prison industrial complex? How are people effected by time in solitary confinement? So I started doing some research. I quickly came upon Solitary Watch, a news organization and advocacy group. The co-director of Solitary Watch, Jean Casella, graciously agreed to speak with me about the issue, and the result is a bonus episode of our podcast that’s chock full of solitary confinement knowledge.

Just consider it Solitary Confinement 101.

After listening to the podcast, you can read more about Solitary Watch at, or you can check out their book, Hell is a Very Small Place: Voices From Solitary Confinement, out now wherever books are sold. It’s an emotionally grounded and graphic account from several individuals who have experienced time in solitary confinement, and we can’t recommend it enough.

In addition, Solitary Watch is working on building a program called Lifelines to Solitary that aims to communicate with individuals currently being held in solitary confinement.  We chat a bit about this program on the podcast, but you can learn more and even donate to the cause here.

Listen to the podcast featuring grantee Solitary Watch here. 

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