Investigation Discovery debuted the first installment of its three-part docuseries Women in Prison tonight, and it has us hooked. A simultaneously intriguing and heartbreaking look at life behind bars and the crimes that landed these women there, it’s a must-watch. Here are seven things you need to know about this groundbreaking docuseries.
1. This is max
While Orange Is the New Black gives us an inside look at a minimum security prison, Women in Prison takes us inside Indiana’s maximum security prison. As such, the crimes committed by these women are far more intense and the sentences being served will see many of the women being profiled remain behind bars until they are well into old age.
2. These women are not people you would expect to see in prison
The first episode focused on Alicia, a soccer mom, and Hannah, a 27-year-old preacher’s daughter. Both women say that if you knew what their lives were like before they ended up in prison, you would never have expected that’s where they’d end up. Not to mention, from what we can tell so far, none of the prisoners featured are malicious criminal types; rather, they seem like pretty nice people despite their crimes.
3. Each episode ends with a shocking revelation about the prisoners
Each episode is a slow build, introducing us to the featured prisoners and setting up the crimes that were committed. We get to know each prisoner and almost develop an affinity for them and find it hard to believe that they should be behind bars — and then the show drops their crime at the very end. As we learned on tonight’s episode, particularly in Hannah’s case, the nature of the crime is shocking because it seems so incongruent with the person we’ve gotten to know throughout the episode.
4. The series will break your heart
Both the crimes themselves and the nature of the situation these women find themselves in will cause your eyes to well up. Not to mention, the prisoners do not at all sugarcoat their experience: Descriptions include “We are no longer individuals or people, we’re our crime,” and “Prison is the ultimate devastation to any person’s life. Everything’s gone; it’s a living death.” This is not a fictionalized series purely for entertainment; this is real life, and it will take its toll on your emotions.
5. There are some OITNB similarities
But these are mainly limited to aesthetics. If the uniforms, the look inside the library and the van used to transport prisoners all seem familiar, it’s because they are pretty much exactly the same as what we’ve seen on OITNB.
6. Love can be found in prison
Another OITNB similarity? There is love in the real-life prison! You will find yourself rooting for the couple in question to make it work on the outside because they really do seem happy together. And it’s not the kind of destructive love Piper and Alex have; rather, this couple seems to have a relationship sans manipulation and sabotage.
7. But there is no touching in prison
And, unlike OITNB, there is no touching in the real-life prison. Any kind of “girlfriend activity” — hugging, putting your arms around another person, kissing on the cheek and even a high-five — can land you inside a solitary prison for 23 hours a day.