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Nancy Grace meets real-life ‘Orange’ women

NEED TO KNOW
  • New Netflix series about women in federal prison
  • Nancy Grace went into an Arizona jail to find out what life is really like for women behind bars
  • Women shared their emotional struggles, creative recipes
Earlier this year, Nancy Grace went inside Estrella Women's Jail to see what life is really like behind bars.

Photos: A day in the life of a female inmate

Photos: A day in the life of a female inmate

Life in lock-up: What it's like to live behind bars

Life in lock-up: What it's like to live behind bars

Inmates: We miss our children, our families

Inmates: We miss our children, our families

The new Netflix original dramedy series “Orange Is the New Black” focuses on the lives of women inside a federal prison.

The show, based on a memoir by former inmate Piper Kerman, has earned rave reviews and spurred some discussion of how realistic its take on prison life is.

Earlier this year, HLN’s Nancy Grace visited Estrella Women’s Jail in Maricopa County, Arizona -- the facility where convicted murderer Jodi Arias is being held -- to learn what things are really like for female inmates behind bars.

The women Grace interviewed faced charges ranging from assault and drug possession to murder.

Grace, a former prosecutor, learned all about their daily routines. The women also shared their secrets for making prison food edible, including a creative recipe for orange chicken that can be made from items available through the jail commissary.  

Photos: Behind bars at the Estrella Jail

To pass time, they write, draw, read, walk around, watch the Food Network (“all this good food you can’t eat,” inmate Mariana Lopez pointed out) or play cards.

“My day is immersed in enjoying the company of women that I never thought I would be interested or intrigued by,” Marissa Level said.

“It’s the same thing every day, every day, just for months at a time,” pregnant inmate Rosa Leon said.

“The cell is their home. That’s their living area 24/7, so basically their cell represents them,” Sgt. Michelle Metzler explained, adding that cleanliness is a priority for a lot of female inmates.

“You need to be really clean or you’re not going to do well here,” she said.

Inmates: How to spice up 'horrible' jail food

The women opened up about the tragic personal and emotional struggles they have faced while in custody. Many said the biggest challenge was leaving their families, and especially their children, behind.

“It’s extremely lonely to feel like you have no one,” Level told Grace.

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