Prison Tour of America: 5 Operating Jails for Orange is the New Black Fans

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Netflix  released season three of their hit series Orange is the New Black last Friday, and we are guessing many of you spent the weekend binge-watching the boundary-pushing show about a women’s prison. While the show is entertaining and eye-opening, there are real prisons out there with inmates in much harsher conditions.

So, now that you’ve finished the entire season and are experiencing OITNB-withdrawal, consider going on an educational prison tour of the United States to fill the void Jenji Kohan left behind.

To really learn about prison life, visit one of these five operating prisons that offer tours or are somewhat accessible to the public (even if it’s just for a driveby).

Federal Correctional Institution
Danbury, Connecticut

Orange is the New Black is based on the memoir of the same name written by Piper Kerman. However, Kerman was not incarcerated at Litchfield Prison, the penitentiary on Orange is the New Black, but at FCI Danbury in Connecticut. If you are a hardcore OITNB-junkie, you can try your hand at driving by the minimum security facility and joining the paparazzi waiting outside for a glimpse of Teresa Giudice, the Real Housewives of New Jersey star who is currently serving time there.

Rikers Island
Bronx, New York

Photo via Getty by Spencer Platt

New York City’s main correctional facility houses about 14,000 inmates and is one of the largest in the world. Hip-hop artists Lil Wayne, Tupac Shakur and DMX all served time on Rikers Island, in addition to infamous lodgers like David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz. You cannot tour the facility but you can get a glimpse of the island—frequently in the news because of its famous inmates and prisoner maltreatment—from the Rikers Island Bridge or a boat (read: kayak) on the East River. Otherwise, view the isle from afar at Barretto Point Park in the South Bronx.

Folsom State Prison
Folsom, California

Photo via Flickr/rocor

California’s second oldest penitentiary, Folsom State Prison housed Charles Manson in the 1970s and hosted Johnny Cash when he performed for inmates in 1968. While you cannot enter the prison itself (unless you are being forced to or are visiting an inmate), the nearby Folsom Prison Museum showcases gruesome relics from the still-operating prison, including a hangman’s noose, a Gatling gun, and a ball and chain.

The State Prison of Southern Michigan
Jackson, Michigan

The first prison in Michigan became the largest walled prison in the world after an expansion in 1934. According to the website, Cell Block 7 is the “only prison exhibit that’s within the walls of an operating penitentiary.” The area was an active part of the facility until 2007 but now showcases artwork made by the inmates and exhibits aimed to educate visitors on prison life.

Sing Sing Prison
Ossining, New York

Photo via Getty by General Photographic Agency

Sing Sing Prison opened in 1826 and is located in Ossining, New York, along the Hudson River. The prison is most famous for housing notorious mobster Charles “Lucky” Luciano. It still operates and holds about 2,000 prisoners. To learn more about Sing Sing, check out the nearby Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum, which houses two original jail cells and a replica of an electric chair.

Maggie Parker is Paste Magazine’s assistant travel editor.

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