*** Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman


We are talking about the book Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, not the juicy TV series — and the book is, I understand (I don’t watch TV; I spend too much time reading!), considerably tamer, but very interesting. The author is a well-educated woman who dipped into money laundering for an international drug distribution organization during an embarrassingly long time in her early twenties, and was eventually tried and convicted years later, landing her in prison. She describes her experience as eerily similar to that of Smith College in its enforced female community, but of course her companions have had considerably tougher lives and a very bleak outlook post-prison. She describes the work, the cliques, the kind and the sadistic correction officers, the lunacies of bureaucracy, with a mostly kind and even hand.

She occasionally shows a not so pleasant whiff of superiority, but she does a great job of exposing the madness of long prison sentences for non-violent offenders and the appalling lack of effort placed on helping prisoners get back into society. She had professional skills, a husband, an apartment, a job, and many friends waiting for her. Most others seem to have nothing.

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