NYCLU sues over 'Orange is the New Black' prison

Sheriff's department cars are parked near the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead, N.Y.
Sheriff's department cars are parked near the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead, N.Y.

This piece contains mild spoilers for the second season of "Orange is the New Black."

The New York Civil Liberties Union wants you to know that incarceration isn't quite as gross as depicted on the new season of the Netflix Original Series "Orange is the New Black."

It's way more disgusting. 

"In real life, the inmates in the Suffolk County Jail, they're not treated like human beings," said Corey Stoughton, an attorney with the NYCLU. "They're treated like animals."

Since 2012, the NYCLU and Shearman & Sterling have been representing inmates at New York's Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead -- the very facility where parts of Netflix's hit show have been filmed. In an attempt to draw attention to the plight of the inmates in their lawsuit, the NYCLU is engaged in a new social media campaign called "Humanity is the New Black," hoping fans of the show will tie the issues in the show to the ones incarcerated people face in real life. The non-profit Prison Policy Initative estimates that there are about 2.4 million incarcerated people in the U.S., with about 720,000 in local jails.

"What I love about the show is how good it was at drawing the characters as fully-fledged human beings, and should not be reduced to some of their crimes," said Stoughton, who says she hasn't seen the new season but plans to binge watch it while on maternity leave. "It seems like our suspicion that the fans of the show would understand these issues was right, people are making the connection." 

Stoughton says the lawsuit was filed after inmates themselves had made more than a hundred complaints to courts about conditions at the facilities. According to NYCLU complaint, inmates at Riverhead and at the county's Yaphank facility have to contend with black mold in the showers, undrinkable water, sewage overflowing into their cells, and "ping pong toilets."

What's a ping pong toilet?

"When you flush a toilet it bubbles up into your neighbors toilet."'