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It seems that, somewhere along the way, everyone around here forgot the only thing that matters. You're criminals, and you deserve nothing. And if I have to make an example out of each and every one of you to get this place back in order... well, that will be my pleasure.
~ Piscatella threatening the inmates

Desmond "Desi" Piscatella is the primary antagonist of seasons 4 and 5 of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. He is a sadistic prison officer, who is appointed as head guard of Litchfield Women's Penitentiary at the start of season 4, and rules the prison with an iron fist.

He was portrayed by Brad William Henke, who also portrayed John Cooke in Split.


Early in life, Piscatella was sent to what he called a "pray the gay away camp" by his fundamentalist Christian parents. Though the experience did nothing to alter his sexual preferences, he pretended that it had in order to keep up appearances, and had a number of fake girlfriends during his time at high school. Deep down, however, the experience left him deeply cynical and mistrustful of other people.

After serving in the military, Piscatella took a job at a men's prison, where he began an illicit relationship with one of the prisoners. Eventually, word spread out that Piscatella was giving the prisoner preferential treatment and illicit gifts, resulting in the other inmates making an attempt on his lover's life. Though the attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, Piscatella and another guard identified the ringleader and tortured him to death. Piscatella was quietly let go from the prison and moved into working at women's prisons.

Following the walkout of most of Litchfield's guards in protest of pay cuts, Piscatella is brought in to help quell a mass-escape of the inmates, and is subsequently appointed as head guard at the prison. In order to help with the staffing shortage, Piscatella recommends recruiting military veterans, as the federal government would cover a large chunk of their salary. However, the guards that Piscatella recruits are incompetent and sadistic, which Piscatella is all too happy to ignore; he thinks that prisoners of either sex are essentially subhuman and deserving of any punishment they get.

His already-poor treatment of the inmates grows much worse after the dead body of a guard (who, unbeknownst to him, was not one of his hires or even a legitimate guard, but rather an assassin sent to eliminate inmate Alex Vause) is dug up in the prison's garden. He goes on the warpath in an attempt to find the culprit, handing out punishments out of spite, recommending sentence extensions for minor infractions, and even mentally torturing inmate Galina "Red" Reznikov, whom he mistakenly suspects of being the culprit.

Matters soon come to a head when guard Thomas Humphrey - who is also a sadist - tries to have inmates Suzanne Warren and Maureen Kukidio murder each other in a bloodsport game. Warden Joe Caputo tries to fire Piscatella, but the other guards close ranks and refuse to implicate Humphrey. However, a mass-demonstration by the prisoners against Piscatella the following day results in another guard named Baxter Bayley, inadvertently asphyxiating inmate Poussey Washington. Despite Bayley's hiring predating that of Piscatella, this gives Caputo the excuse that he needs to finally fire him.

A few days later, a full-scale riot breaks out over Washington's death, with the entire prison staff being held hostage. Still feeling some sense of duty to his former colleagues, Piscatella goes to the prison and asks to help out, only to be informed that even if Caputo hadn't fired him, he has no authority to get involved in the situation. The increasingly unhinged Piscatella becomes convinced that Red is the instigator of the riot (which in reality was Washington's friend Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson), and upon hearing that Humphrey had been shot and severely wounded early in the riot, steals some SWAT gear and breaks into the prison with the express goal of capturing and torturing Red, while forcing her closest friends to watch.

While he is torturing Red, Vause, who is among the prisoners he had captured, escapes her bonds and tries to attack him; he responds by breaking her arm. Unbeknownst to him, however, another set of inmates are watching from a hidden passageway and records the incident on a stolen smartphone, before luring him into a trap, knocking him out and tying him up. They then upload the clip to YouTube.

The revelation of Piscatella's crimes forces the state to offer better conditions for all prisoners in exchange for the hostages' release, but Taystee refuses the offer because Caputo can't guarantee Bayley's arrest. The state terminates negotiations on the spot and sends in the SWAT teams to end the riot at any cost, resulting in several inmates being badly injured. Taystee and Red threaten to murder Piscatella, but are unable to go through with it after Piscatella says that he knows from experience that taking revenge does not make anything better. Red ultimately decides to release him, feeling that it would be better revenge to let Piscatella live a long, miserable life as a pariah.

When Piscatella attempts to escape, an overzealous SWAT officer, mistaking him for an inmate, shoots him in the face with a pepper-spray bullet, killing him instantly. The SWAT officers subsequently dump Piscatella's body where the prisoners had been keeping him hostage, hoping to make it look as though they had executed him before they could be re-captured.


Though Piscatella was usually quite praiseworthy and affable to civilians and other prison staffers, and fiercely loyal to the guards under his command, his sadistic side quickly became apparent when dealing with prisoners, whom he would treat harshly for any minor misdeed, or even if he simply suspected them of wrongdoing.


  • Piscatella is the only character to be the primary antagonist of more than one season of the show. In Season 1 the role was filled primarily by Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett, in Season 2 it was Yvonne Parker, for Season 3 it was Stella Carlin, in Season 6 it was the Denning Sisters, and in Season 7 it was Carlos Litvak.


           Orange Is The New Black logo Villains

Dayanara Diaz | Denning Sisters | Desi Piscatella | Kubra Balik | Maria Ruiz | Pennsatucky | Piper Chapman | Pornstache | Yvonne Parker | Linda Ferguson | Madison Murphy | Natalie Figueroa | Thomas Humphrey

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