The author of “Orange Is The New Black” had a blunt message for Congress on Tuesday: Her sentence was virtually pointless.
In a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing Tuesday, Piper Kerman, whose memoir about her year in prison was adapted into a Netflix series, said that her sentence for a decade-old drug-trafficking crime did nothing to improve the community or prevent future crime.
“It’s hard, however, to believe that there was a lot of social benefit to the community drawn from my incarceration. It prevented no new crimes,” Kerman, the basis for the character Piper Chapman on “Orange is the New Black,” told the Senate panel.
“If any member of this committee had the opportunity to meet the hundreds of women that I did time with, you would probably walk away from getting to know those women with a deep feeling that their confinement in a prison cell was just a colossal waste, and not an appropriate way in intervening in the things that put them in the criminal justice system.”
Though Kerman said she saw the harmful effects of the drug trade on women, she suggested that she could’ve learned that lesson if she’d done community service with families impacted by drug addiction.
Kerman frequently speaks out about the treatment of women in federal prison, drawing from her own experiences as an inmate at a Connecticut prison where she served 13 months on drug-trafficking charges.
This isn’t the first time that Kerman’s been called to testify before Congress about life in prison and the criminal justice system. In 2014, she spoke in front of the Senate Judiciary committee about the effects of solitary confinement on women in prison.
Criminal justice and sentencing reform are increasingly becoming issues with bipartisan support, as everyone from President Barack Obama to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) has called for reform. As The Hill reported, several members of the House of Representatives indicated on Monday that they are likely to introduce a bipartisan bill to overhaul the criminal justice system.
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