Piper Kerman: Incarceration Does Not Lead to Rehabilitation

By ABC News

Jul 21, 2013 12:16pm

Report by Anja Crowder:

Piper Kerman, the inspiration for the new Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” shared her unlikely story of serving time in prison in an interview for “This Week” Sunday.

Kerman explained that her run-in with the law stemmed from a reckless indiscretion in her 20′s after graduating from Smith College.

“I met and became involved in a relationship with what seemed like an incredibly glamorous and sophisticated older woman. And she was involved with narcotics trafficking. And at her request, I carried a bag full of drug money from Chicago to Brussels – and really frightened myself,” Kerman told ABC’s Dan Harris.

More than ten years after committing the crime, Kerman served 13 months in a women’s correctional facility in Danbury, Conn. The new Netflix program  “Orange is the New Black,” based on Kerman’s 2010 book, is an up-close and personal look at her time in prison, with many of the scenes straight out of her real life experiences.


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ABC News

Kerman said she feels proud that unlike many prison shows, which depict inmates as savagely violent, this show humanizes them. She recounted that her experience in prison was not what she had expected.

“When I walked into the prison gates, I was frightened. I didn’t know what to expect,” Kerman said. “And the last thing I expected was for kindnesses to be extended to me by the other prisoners. But that was exactly what I found.”

Kerman hopes the show will make viewers think twice about the social and financial costs of maintaining our vast prison system.

A supporter of prison reform, Kerman said, “I think that nonviolent, low-level offenders can be dealt with in much more sensible ways than by incarceration.”

“Incarceration does not rehabilitate people. And it doesn’t allow them to change their lives.”

Today, Kerman helps newly released inmates through a group called the Women’s Prison Association.

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