In her memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison, Piper Kerman recounts the 15 months that she spent in the Danbury Correctional Facility for a crime she had committed ten years prior as a very brief, very careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking. Compelling, moving, and often hilarious, the stories of the women she met while in prison raise issues of friendship and family, mental illness, the odd cliques and codes of behavior, the role of religion, the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailor, and the almost complete lack of guidance for life after prison.
The memoir was adapted into an original Netflix series of the same name by Jenji Kohan, creator of Showtime’s Weeds, and was recently renewed for a second season. It has been called “the best TV show about prison ever made” by the Washington Post and was lauded by Time’s TV critic James Poniewozik for “the stunningly matter-of-fact way it uses the prison to create one of TV’s most racially and sexually diverse–and as important, complex–dramas [and] contrasts the power and class dynamics inside the prison with those outside the prison.”
Kerman has delivered lectures to campuses across the country, including the University of Tulsa, Roanoke College, Fairfield University, Salem State College, Rutgers University, New York Law School, and many others. She has also spoken to groups that include the American Correctional Association’s Disproportionate Minority Confinement Task Force, federal probation officers, public defenders, justice reform advocates and volunteers, and formerly and currently incarcerated people. She serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association.