How The Women Of Orange Is The New Black Wound Up At Litchfield

Courtesy of Netflix
Orange is the New Black began as the story of a single unlikely prison inmate. Ten years after smuggling drugs for her girlfriend, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is sentenced to prison. By that point, Piper has abandoned her life of drug rings and lesbian girlfriends. She lives with her fiancé, Larry Bloom, in a New York apartment straight out of the Pottery Barn catalog. Her parents are wealthy WASPs from Connecticut. She thought she’d get away with this small skeleton in her closet, a blip from her past. But as every character on Orange Is the New Black knows, the past has a nasty habit of rearing its head.
Four seasons in, Orange is the New Black is now far more than Piper Chapman’s sob story. In fact, Piper’s now just a minor player in the Litchfield prison symphony. Each backstory reveals how the character lived in her pre-Litchfield days. While we see the crime she committed, we also see the circumstances of her life at the time. That’s because, of course, each character is so much more than a sentence delivered by a judge. She’s an individual — and, in many cases, the victim of injustice.
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With so many Orange Is the New Black characters, it’s hard to keep track of all those histories. Here’s a quick summary of how each prisoner ended up in jail, though her sentence is only a minor piece of the puzzle.
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Alex Vause

Alex used to be a drug smuggler for an international drug cartel, and enlisted Piper's help in carrying drug money.
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Piper Chapman

Ten years after smuggling a suitcase of cash across international borders for her ex-girlfriend, Piper is arrested as an accomplice and ends up at Litchfield.
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Lorna Morello

Remember the days when Lorna couldn't stop talking about her wedding to Christopher? As it turns out, Christopher wasn't her fiancé — he was some guy Lorna had gone on one date with, and proceeded to stalk. Lorna was arrested for trying to blow up Christopher's girlfriend's car with a homemade explosive device.
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Nicky Nichols

Nicky had a privileged but lonely childhood as the daughter of a New York socialite. While in her 20s, Nicky and her friends were addicted to heroin and spent their days searching for the drug. In the events leading up to her sentence, she and a friend broke into a woman's apartment to sell her expensive books for drug money. Her crimes included breaking and entering, and heroin possession.
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Galina "Red" Reznikov

Red and her husband, Dmitri, ran a Russian market in Astoria, Queens. The shop was frequented by members of the Russian mob, who grew to rely on Red's sound business advice. But Dmitri and Red's powerful new social circle came with a dangerous catch. The mobster friends began to use the restaurant freezer to store their victims. The police found five heads in the restaurant freezer.
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Dayanara Diaz

Like her mother, Aleida, Dayanara went to prison for drug-related charges. Dayanara was raised in a chaotic household, bursting with siblings and Aleida's boyfriend, Cesar's, home-grown drug business. After Aleida goes to jail, it's likely that Daya became more involved with Cesar's business, leading to her own arrest.
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Aleida Diaz

Cesar, Aleida's boyfriend, used their apartment for his drug business. She spent her days cutting and bagging drugs on the living room floor. When the police busted the operation, Aleida took the fall for Cesar.
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Poussey Washington

On Poussey's final episode of Orange Is the New Black, we're given an account of the events that put her in prison. Poussey went out in Brooklyn with friends, and ended up having an exuberant, strange, wonderful night in New York. She saw the wrong band with her crew. She chased down the man who stole her phone. She got lost. She partied with drag queens. She got a ride from Improv Everywhere monks on the backseat of a bike.

Each crossroad decision led her to being the wrong place at the wrong time. Eventually, she and one of the monks snuck into an abandoned lot and lit a joint. After he left, she was arrested for trespassing and marijuana possession with intent to sell.
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Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren

Before we find out the devastating details of Suzanne's crime, we're given an insight to her upbringing. Suzanne was raised by a loving suburban couple, along with the couple's biological daughter. In season 4, we catch Suzanne working as a store greeter and living with her sister. Her sister was taking a trip with her boyfriend, and eagerly anticipating some time away from the demanding Suzanne. Before leaving, she told Suzanne to make some friends.

While in the park, Suzanne saw a family of customers she was friendly with. With all the purest intentions, she invited Dylan, the youngest boy, back to her apartment for video games. After some time, Dylan wanted to go home, much to Suzanne's bewilderment. Why would he want to leave? He called 911. She began to panic and chase him around the apartment. Dylan crawled out the window, and she followed him onto the fire escape, where he fell to the street. It was fatal.
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Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson

After years floundering in the foster care system, a young Taystee finally decided to join Vee's heroin operation as an accountant, of sorts. Likely, Taystee ended up in prison for her involvement with Vee's drug ring.
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Yvonne "Vee" Parker

Vee was arrested for running a heroin drug ring.
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Gloria Mendoza

Gloria was sent to Litchfield for food stamp fraud. While running a bodega, Gloria would accept food stamps for beer, cigarettes, or money. Gloria's intentions weren't to get rich or cheat the system. Rather, she was trying to save up money to leave her abusive boyfriend and keep her store running.
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Carrie "Big Boo" Black

We've learned about Boo's childhood and intolerant mother, but not much about her crimes. She refers to herself as a "thieving dyke," so presumably, it had to do with stealing.
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Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett

Doggett shot a nurse at the abortion clinic. Though religious zealots hailed Doggett as a hero for the pro-life cause, religion had nothing to do with her intentions. The nurse had made a snide remark about this being Doggett's fifth abortion, and she didn't react well to such blatant disrespect.
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Janae Watson

Janae was her high school's track star, and was being recruited by a number of colleges. But her life went off track (get it?) when she met an alluring man at a party, who promised her a life of fast living and high crime. Watson's boyfriend roped her into committing armed robbery of a bank. After the robbery, she easily outran the cops, but her pigtailed boyfriend wasn't as fast. Watson slowed down so the cops could arrest her while her boyfriend scurried off with the cash.
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Leanne Taylor

Before wearing brown prison garb, Leanne wore traditional Amish clothing. During her Rumspringa, Leanne rebelled from her family's ways and started experimenting with drugs. Though she eventually returned to the church, cops found her meth-filled backpack in a corn field. Leanne also ratted out on all of her old friends.
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Norma Romano

As a young woman, Norma fell under the spell of a charismatic cult leader, and, along with many other women, married him. Norma stayed loyal, even after all the other wives left. And how did this cult leader repay her? By screaming at her, insulting her intelligence, and saying she wasted her life. Norma responded by pushing him off a cliff.
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Marisol "Flaca" Gonzales

Flaca's juvenile money-making scheme ended up having dire repercussions. While in high school, Flaca sold fake drugs to her classmates. One kid was convinced he was high, and jumped to his death from the roof of the school. As a result, Flaca was arrested for fraud and endangerment.
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Cindy "Black Cindy" Hayes

While we're not sure exactly what landed Cindy in prison, her irresponsible behavior as a TSA agent probably had something to do with it. While working at the Pittsburgh airport, Cindy swiped items from suitcases, groped men, and stole food from airport kiosks.
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Sophia Burset

Long before Litchfield, Sophia presented as a man named Marcus Burset. She worked as a firefighter, and was married to a woman named Crystal. As Marcus, Sophia turned to credit card fraud to finance her gender confirmation surgery. When Sophia was in fire-ravaged houses, she'd gather up credit cards, thinking home owners would believe the cards to have been lost in the fire.

Her scheme to raise funds worked. She transitioned and began going by Sophia. Though Sophia stayed married to Crystal, their son wasn't as comfortable with the situation. He turned his parent in for credit card theft.
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Erica "Yoga Jones" Jones

In her past life, Yoga Jones made her living as a pot farmer. Her crop was always being chomped by deer. One day, she heard a sound in the bushes. Very drunk, she pulled out her gun and shot in the direction of the bush. Sadly, her target was a young boy who had run away from home, not a hungry deer.
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Jane "Sister" Ingalls

In addition to being a nun, Jane was a renowned activist. She lost the church's support when her actions became more extreme, and was arrested after trespassing into a nuclear test site.
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Brook Soso

Like Sister Jane, Brook Soso also landed in Litchfield because of her commitment as an activist. She was arrested for moving into a tree in an effort to protest the logging business.
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Angie Rice

A key member of Pennsatucky's gang of ex-meth users, Angie likely ended up in prison for drug possession.
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Mei Chang

In a flashback, we find out that Mei Chang once ran an illegal smuggling operation with her brother. Chang's brother hoped to collect a bride price by marrying Chang off, though no suitors were interested. When one particularly cruel suitor tried to dupe the siblings by selling them ping-pong balls instead of turtle eggs, Chang got revenge by instructing her business partners to take out his gall bladder.
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Claudette Pelage

As a girl, Claudette was sent from Haiti to the United States to pay off her family's debt. Later on, Claudette used illegal child labor to run her cleaning business. After one of her employees was assaulted, Claudette beat the perpetrator to death. She likely was arrested for the murder and for child labor.
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Tricia Miller

After leaving her abusive household at 18, Tricia survived through acts of petty theft. She kept track of every item she stole so she could pay back each business, eventually.
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Blanca Flores

When working as a caretaker, Blanca was at the mercy of her cruel elderly employer, Millie. Millie squashed a blossoming romance between Blanca and the gardener, Diablo. An enraged Blanca turned the tables when she had sex with Diablo in Millie's bedroom, as Millie looked on with horror. Following that shocking incident, Millie was far more submissive. Blanca was probably arrested for some kind of elderly abuse.
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Lolly Whitehill

Lolly is Litchfield's resident conspiracy theorist. Outside prison walls, Lolly's paranoia and mental illness defined her much in the same way.

Lolly's promising career as a journalist was dashed when her illness grew worse. Eventually, she moved onto the street and sold coffee out of a shopping cart. Her days as a harmless neighborhood character came to an end when she lashed out at a few cops.
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Judy King

This riff off Martha Stewart went to prison for tax evasion.
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Stella Carlin

What we don't know about Stella is a lot. We don't even know why she landed in jail in the first place, though her criminal inclinations are on full display when helping Piper with her underwear smuggling business.
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Maritza Ramos

Maritza was a con artist whose ambitions soon exceeded her skill level. At first, the cons were easy: As a cocktail waitress, she got men to pay for spilled bottles of vodka. Then, she was roped into stealing a Ferrari. Though she drove away with the car successfully, the salesman remembered her face.
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Gina Murphy

All we know of Gina's past crime is derived from a single sentence. The official charge is embezzlement, though Gina attests she only "stole money," and "had nothing to do with the guy who killed himself." Fill in the blanks yourself.
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Miss Rosa Cisneros

Rosa was the Bonnie in many different Bonnie and Clyde criminal pairings. During her years as a prolific bank robber, Rosa lost many a-lover and partner in crime, until eventually she was caught, too.
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