Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
I am well aware that there is a television show called Orange is the New Black. I have never watched this show, but I might. I just might watch it. I knew the show was about women’s prison, but I had no idea that there was a book and a real woman behind the show.
Piper’s story is kind of sad. It’s disappointing and makes you feel as if the legal system in the United States is one big failure. We meet Piper quite young at the beginning of the book. She hangs out with a woman named Nora. Piper desires to be desired by Nora, but Nora only seems to be there to use Piper, but Piper isn’t really experienced enough in life to realize how her toxic relationships is working out. One day Piper notices that her friend Nora has this nice new car and gets curious. Piper is soon whirled into the world of drug running. Piper never carries drugs herself. She only carries money. She has no idea that it’s illegal to go around to various banks and Western Unions across the world picking up money for drug lords.
After a time, Piper splits from Nora because she realizes Nora is using her. Piper comes very close to being an actual drug mule, but escapes because the drugs didn’t show up. Piper goes back home to the states. She gets a job. She tries to make life normal for herself. She meets a man, whom at first she doesn’t really feel any romantic connection to, but one develops. Piper finds herself won over by a man who is her everything for the most part.
One day, strangely, police officers show up at her door, asking for her by name. She doesn’t know what this is about. It turns out that she’s being dragged into a huge drug trial. The proceedings go on for years until any actual sentencing goes on. In the end, Piper is sentenced to fifteen months in prison. She hasn’t really done anything, but pick up money. If she had gone to trial, she might have gotten off scot-free or she might have gotten the maximum drug sentence. Piper pleads guilty and ends up with a reduced sentence of fifteen months. She hopes to get it reduced some more.
Piper seems stoic about going to prison. How does a person going to prison remain so calm? Luckily, Piper is not sent to the best women’s prison, but she is definitely not sent to the worst. She ends up at Danbury. The conditions are not terrible. Life in prison is degrading at times. Prisoners have no rights. Guards do things to prisoners that they shouldn’t.
For all of this, Piper soon learns of an interesting prison subculture. Racial groups mostly stick together, but do intermingle. The women of prison become experts in creating things you wouldn’t think could be created in prison, such as cheesecake. The microwaves are beautiful professional cooktops in the eyes of the prison inmates. Clothes are tailored illegally. If you know the right people, you can get certain things from the prison store. Some inmates run businesses on the side. Piper gets some pretty creative pedicures in prison.
Piper soon learns that she has to change to do her time, but she doesn’t have to change that much. Sure, there are some pretty tough women in her prison, but most of them aren’t that bad. They have families. They know they went wrong somewhere. Some of them are really victims of association. There is even a nun in prison with Piper. She’s there for protesting, which just seems terrible. Why would you put a nun in prison and one who is just stretching her right to free speech no less?
Piper does go into the whole deal of “the war on drugs.” Sure, drugs are bad. You shouldn’t do drugs, but some of the prison sentences for people associated with people doing drugs are just plain silly. So someone uses your house to bag up some weed, that makes you eligible to be charged with a crime, even though you didn’t really do anything. Heck, you might have been at work, and they were just sitting in your house putting weed into bags. It seems awfully unfair. A large portion of the prison population is there because of drug charges.
Ultimately, Piper gets out. She’s been out for a while. She has her boyfriend to go back to, but missed some things while she was in prison, mainly the death of her grandmother, which is quite sad.
What I liked
I’ve read books where a character has been in prison before. They never really go into that much detail. Piper goes into great detail because she was actually there. I will admit, there have been a few times I’ve had these horrible dreams in which I was in prison. I don’t ever recall there being an actual reason I was in prison in those dreams. What did I do? I don’t know, but apparently I did something, or rather, Dream Me did something, that was illegal and carried a prison sentence. I always have a lot of anxiety when I have those kinds of dreams. I would really hate prison. All the walls are probably the same color. You can’t go anywhere. People look at you naked. The whole deal would just really suck. Piper’s prison ordeal isn’t that bad as far as prison goes, but it’s still not a walk in the park. It’s still freaking prison. I am glad that she was able to get something out of though.
I liked that Piper rolled the whole Martha Stuart thing into her book. No one ever really thinks of Martha Stuart as a prison thug, but it happened. Martha really went to prison. You know who I could imagine in prison? Paula Deen. I think she would do really well in prison for some reason. She’s got enough southern woman in her to grab prison by the butt, plus, she’d probably make some awesome microwave prison food. If only she had more butter…
What I didn’t like
All you legal and law enforcement types out there may think Piper got what she deserved. Merely by being associated with drug runners, she was guilty of a crime, and therefore had to waste an entire year of her life in prison, despite the charges being over ten years old. Good, freaking, grief. That’s just retarded. I get that she picked up some money illegally. Hey, we’ve all picked quarters up off of the ground, but come on. I actually don’t know if picking a quarter up off of the ground is illegal, I just used it as an example.
Drug charges have gotten ridiculous. Drugs are bad, ok? They mess with your brain and they can kill you. You shouldn’t do drugs, especially stuff like Heroin, Cocaine, and Meth, but so many people are in prison for Marijuana charges or something less sinister. I found out that the word “sinister” is associated with being left-handed by the way. Weird huh? Anyway, look if it grows on the side of the road, you shouldn’t go to jail for using it. Oh look there’s some tobacco! No jail charge. Oh look there’s some marijuana! No jail charge. Get it? Not that I’m this huge proponent of legalized marijuana, I just think prosecuting people for smoking it and selling it is stupid. You’re wasting tax payer money. Let me get this straight, we as citizens of the United States spend our hard-earned tax dollars to put a pot-head in prison for various lengths of time, where they will get a bed, three meals a day, and medical care all because they smoked some pot or they dealt some pot. Waste of money! Seriously! It’s not like they’re going to be reformed when they get out. They’re still going to smoke pot.
On the other hand, things like dealing meth and cocaine, I can totally understand. We don’t need a bunch of meth-heads wandering around on the streets. What kind of drug was that person on who randomly tried to eat off a person’s face? It was either meth or PCP. I forget which. We don’t want face-eating people free in the general public.
Piper is associated with a heroin ring, but that doesn’t mean she was swallowing bags of heroin and puking them up later after she was in a different country. Even though Piper’s sentence wasn’t very long, I still feel like she got the rough end of the stick. It’s really sad that she missed her grandmother’s funeral.
Piper’s book was an interesting look inside the world of women’s prison. I might read up some more on the subject in the future.
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Kerman-Piper, Memoir, Non-Fiction, ponder provoking, social commentary, True strange Happenings