Orange is the New Black Author

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Jayden Pohtos, Staff Reporter

Orange is the New Black author speaks about life in a women’s prison

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By Jayden Pohtos/Staff Reporter

In 1992 Piper Kerman was a Smith College graduate. In 2004 Kerman became inmate 11187-424. Today, she is the author of New York Times Bestseller “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.”

Criminal justice and psychology teacher Ms. Burns and speech teacher Dr. Metropoulos took their students to Maryville University to attend a speech given by Piper Kerman.

Kerman spent her time after graduation travelling the world with her girlfriend Catherine Wolters. Wolters was also an international drug smuggler. Kerman helped her by transferring thousands of dollars of drug money from place to place. She never thought about consequences. She was just living in the moment.

Many years after ending her relationship with Wolters and moving to California to turn her life around, something unfortunate happened. Kerman’s decisions she made in her 20s came back to steal her freedom in her 30s. She then was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

A problem many people have is not realizing that every decision they make has consequences. No matter if the person is good or bad, young or old consequences will always be there. Some worse than others.

“Decisions you make when you’re young affect you later in life,” said Burns.

Burns, who is reading the book and also watching the original Netflix series, felt her students would retain information about the struggles women experience physically and mentally in prison.

Senior Virginia Perry, who attended the speech said there were differences between the book and series. “The show is different from the book but they both relate to the mental damage prison does to women,” Perry said.

According to Kerman, there has been an 800 percent increase of incarceration of women over the last 30 years.

“The person more likely to wear the orange jumpsuit, believe it or not, is a woman,” Kerman said.
Many inhumane things happen in prison. Yes, they are criminals but they are also humans.

Being put in solitary confinement for minor disobedience issues can ruin a person mentally.  The majority of women’s prisons have an overwhelming amount of male staff members. Inmates are raped every day by prison guards and they have nobody to speak for them. Pregnant inmates are giving birth in shackles.

Prisons and jails are well over capacity. Prisons are by design a place for scarcity and where there is scarcity there is conflict.

Doing time in prison isn’t easy, but it’s easier when you make friends.

“The last thing my counselor told me was ‘Piper, don’t make friends.’ And I’m really happy I didn’t listen to him because without them I never would’ve survived in there,” said Kerman.

Problems that women face in prison are often overlooked. Many women who leave prison are more likely to return because of the lack of knowledge of the real world.

Luckily for Kerman, when she was released she had supportive friends and family.  They made her feel normal and invited her back into the real world with open arms. Kerman continues to stay in contact with the women she was in prison with.

“Those girls are my family and always will be,” Kerman said.

“Everyone makes mistakes and learning from them is the best thing you can do. Learn from them and help others not make the same mistakes you did. That’s all you have in life.”