I applauded heartily—all by myself–though I sat in a packed house at The Hartford Stage last Thursday night. I wasn’t cheering the featured, celebrated author, Piper Kerman, “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.”
I was applauding because the woman interviewing Ms. Kerman was finally tip-toeing to the topic that had struck a nerve in me since I read the book last month. Piper Kerman’s culpability and remorse. “Ask Piper Kerman if she really is sorry for her crime,” I was trying to convey by my mid-show solo-clapping.
What’s “Orange” about and why does it make me see red? It is about 32-year-old Piper Kerman, whose seemingly privileged life has to be postponed while she surrenders herself for 15 months to the women’s prison in Danbury, CT. Ten years earlier, she transported drug money through customs for an ex-lover. The law finally caught up to her and she had to do the time. She cobbled together a memoir of sorts and her writer/fiancé with his connections and a well-placed article in The Times, helped to get her unleavened, sophomoric “Going to a Cushy Women’s Prison for Dummies” published.
I wiggled a lot in my seat. I imagined saying things like “Are you flippin’ kidding me?!” during the casual Oprah-ish interview.
One weak argument that made me roll my eyes was that we all have done stupid things as young adults. Indeed, “There, for the Grace of God, Go I.” But the fact is that Kerman, 23 at the time and privileged grad from Smith College, willfully and knowingly carried a suitcase of drug money as a “mule.” She was fully aware of what was going on, living off the seedy spoils of international drug activity like a rock star in lavish hotels in posh places around the globe.
This went on for at least a year! This was no one-night-stand, folks. Not her first rodeo!
I refrained from throwing verbal tomatoes lest I be removed by security.
I flared again how Kerman down-played what she referred to as her “Non-violent indictment,” rather than fully taking responsibility for the damage she had done. Whether or not someone committed a murder or maimed another –or “merely” carried a suitcase full of drug money in Europe as she did, each drug-related act ends up causing great harm to all of us as a society.
So please, Ms. Kerman, don’t whine about your 13 month prison stint! You can’t candy-coat what you did and call it a “Non-Violent indictment” and expect my sympathy. You wondered in your book that what you did “may” have hurt people like the ones you did time with—the marginalized, the poor, the non-white—the ones so unlike yourself.
The truth is, Piper, drug crimes people like you commit, “Non-violent” or “Violent” affect all walks of life.
Crimes like yours cause my loved-ones to have access to addictive, insidious drugs from drug dealers in your ring. It feeds their nightmarish cravings and shakes the entire mobile of my family.
Crimes like yours cause stress, worry, physical and emotional anguish in my Police Officer marriage/family. My husband and his colleagues have to deal with dangers of illicit drugs on a daily basis. They risk their lives going into to life-threatening drug busts with the S.W.A.T team in the middle of the night to catch your drug affiliates. You have NO IDEA unless you are married to a cop, or have a family member or friend who risks his or her life for drug-related dirt bags every shift.
Crimes like yours create the heroin junkies. Three broke into my home on Nov. 3, 2008 and desecrated my family’s sense of peace and security. They raped us of $6,800 of 25 years of personal heirlooms and one of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. They stole my computer with photos and memories that couldn’t mean squat to you! All for drug money, all for another fix. That money went up stream to pay for the “high” life people like you enjoyed, while living like a rock star. It was the cash people like you carried in that suitcase, honey!
After the “show” the moderator actually approached me in the lobby to ask me why I clapped during her interview with Kerman. I gave her a Reader’s Digest version of why. I didn’t get into how I thought whatever integrity Kerman might have had with her book, she sold it to Netflix for the tarted-up, sensationalized, Orange is the New Black series.
I did not tell the woman how disgusted I was after I watched the first episode. Both my husband and I sat down (after I read the book) to see what all of the fuss was all about. What did we find? In one of the opening scenes, Piper “Chapman” is having a farewell cookout with her friends the night before she is to go to “prison”. The friend looks over at the grill and says, “Why did you roast a pig?” Piper, “Pig, Cops, get it?”
Kerman had said at Hartford Stage that she sold the rights to Jengi Kohen (creator of Weeds, go figure!) for the Netflix series “so the plight of women in prisons and the need of prison reform could be spread to a wider audience.”
From the informational booths advocating prison reform and rehabilitation for women in the lobby after the show on Dec. 12, one may be led to believe that Kerman is finally growing a conscious. Maybe now she is paying the piper (pun intended) by being a poster child. Other legitimate groups are able to get some of the much needed attention and funding for really helping women in prison and re-entry into society.
Maybe I am just burned.
Hopefully she isn’t just cashing in on getting caught with a well-oiled marketing plan to push her book. Maybe she isn’t laughing all the way to the bank in her Martha Stewart maxi-pad slippers as a co-producer on the much anticipated second season of “Orange.”
The jury is still out with me. While I agree our criminal justice system is expensive and sometimes unfair and there needs to be reform, I am still waiting for a sincere apology from Ms. Kerman. She should admit that her “low level” involvement was a hell of a lot more damaging than she has said so far.
Talk to me, people.