‘OITNB’ launches Poussey Washington Fund supporting criminal justice reform

Netflix established The Poussey Washington Fund in honor of the late character, portrayed by Samira Wiley.
Netflix established The Poussey Washington Fund in honor of the late character, portrayed by Samira Wiley. Photo Credit: Li Yakira Cohen

Netflix is saying goodbye to "Orange Is the New Black" with a call for change in the real world. 

The streaming service announced on Thursday the creation of The Poussey Washington Fund, which will support eight nonprofit criminal justice reform advocacy groups, including the Women’s Prison Association and the unPrison Project.

Though we’re three seasons removed from the death of inmate Poussey, played by Samira Wiley, the character has remained central to the plotline. After being accidentally strangled by a guard during a peaceful demonstration at the Litchfield women’s prison, Poussey helped propel conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and discrimination.

Discussion, both real and fictional, only intensified after the heartbreaking revelation that Poussey was a nonviolent offender, serving time in Litchfield after being in possession of a small amount of marijuana.

A fictional version of the fund Netflix created in her honor will be central to the series’ seventh and final season. Taystee, played by Danielle Brooks, will be the driving force behind the fund that provides microloans to women as they are released from prison.

Outside the fictional world of "Orange Is the New Black," money raised through the fund will be donated to eight preexisting advocacy groups focusing on propelling criminal justice reform, protecting immigrants’ rights, ending mass incarceration and supporting the women who have been affected by it, according to a release. A full list of the nonprofits can be found at CrowdRise.com/PWF

The Poussey Washington Fund is supported by GoFundMe.org and CrowdRise by GoFundMe, and all proceeds will be divided evenly among the organizations.

"Through the Poussey Washington Fund, our characters can live on and continue to make an impact after the show has come to an end," Jenji Kohan, the show’s creator, said in a statement. "Taystee recognized an opportunity to make a difference for her fellow inmates, and we saw no reason why we couldn’t launch our own initiative to have an effect in the real world.”

The fund announcement came in the form of a video showing some of the show’s biggest fans reflecting on what the series has meant to them. It ended with a surprise visit from a few cast members. 

Laura Prepon (Alex Vause), Laverne Cox (Sophia Burset), Uzo Aduba (Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren), Danielle Brooks (Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson) and Dascha Polanco (Dayanara Diaz) gathered on Friday morning to light the Empire State Building orange in honor of the fund, and the season premiere. The Empire State Building was set to give off an orange glow at sunset. 

The full and final season of "Orange Is the New Black" hits Netflix on Friday. Information about how to donate to the fund will be displayed for viewers following the 13th episode. 

To donate, visit Crowdrise.com/PWF