Vicci Martinez and Emily Tarver of ‘Orange is the New Black’ Are Just Getting Started as Justice Reform Advocates

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The eighth and final season of Netflix‘s Orange is the New Black may have drawn to a close, but cast members are as motivated as ever to ensure that the stories of detained persons in the U.S. are still getting the airtime they deserve. Actors and fellow collaborators Vicci Martinez and Emily Tarver, who played Daddy and corrections officer Artesian McCullough, respectively, visited the Hudson County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in Kearny, New Jersey late last week to raise awareness for the immigrant detention that takes place in communities all over the country.

At the jail, Martinez and Tarver met with a couple of inmates who are immigrants currently caught up in our country’s prison system. “This is our first visit to a detention center and we want to know if they want to talk about it, what their experience is like and how they are feeling,” Martinez North Jersey’s USA Today affiliate. “The reason we are doing it is we want to help.” 

The actors spoke to two women from Jamaica, listening to their firsthand accounts and experiences as detainees. Organized alongside the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, the purpose of the visit was to expand the capacity in which the actors could advocate for prison reform and human rights from the platforms beyond the scope of OITNB. “Part of educating yourself is experiencing it and hearing their stories and seeing it with your eyes,” continued Martinez. She explained that it was simply a necessary first step to the pair’s expanding role as advocates. 

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Photo Credit IG @viccimartinez

Tarver tweeted out the visit on Thursday with the hashtag #DONEwithDetention, highlighting the recent launch of an interactive map designed by Freedom for Immigrants. The map was created to help educate members of the public about the vast reach immigrant detention, revealing the location of detention centers and ICE field offices, the growth and current tally of people who are being detained by ICE, and even information about immigration bonds that have kept some people behind bars while awaiting their court dates. Freedom for Immigrants is currently running a fundraiser that ends tomorrow, raising money through the sale of t-shirts that sport their logo; it’s a t-shirt that will undeniably spark important conversations when you’re wearing it. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go toward the National Immigration Detention Bond Fund.

Big disclaimer: The t-shirts, while designed to raise the visibility of the organization’s mission, are produced by Gildan Activewear. Gildan is a garment manufacturer that, as recently as two years ago, was criticized by former factor workers for labor violations that have left its employees with health issues and prevented them from unionizing. With factories based in Central American countries where labor is cheap and regulations are not always enforced, it’s not far-fetched to imagine that Gildan’s employees are some of the very same people who may decide to immigrate to the U.S. in search of better opportunities. We recommend donating directly to the organization in order to avoid a potential conflict of ethics until the organization can return our inquiry and clarify under what conditions these t-shirts were produced. (And just to ensure that we’re being complete wet blankets on this matter, we’re even going to remind you that you probably don’t need another t-shirt, lest you contribute to more unintended harm against the world via textile pollution…)