Sunday, November 30, 2014

Orange Is the New Black

By Piper Kerman

When Piper was a young woman, she fell in with a bad group of people. It lead to her becoming a smuggler and money launderer for a drug lord. This episode in her life was fairly brief and she left that all behind and settled down into a regular job and life. But all that was put into jeopardy when she was served with a warrant and subsequently convicted for her past bad deeds.
She avoided prison for many years but eventually was incarcerated at the federal prison for women in Danbury, Connecticut.
Piper was one of the lucky ones at Danbury. She had a strong support system consisting of a loving and faithful fiance, her parents, friends, family and coworkers, and plenty of money, unlike many of her fellow inmates. In Danbury, Piper is exposed to a strata of society unlike any she has previously experienced. The women of the prison range from smart, savvy women like herself to the poorest, loneliest and most deprived people Piper has ever seen. Since Danbury is a low security prison, the residents are not violent nor particularly dangerous. In fact, most of Piper's problems with people at the prison are the guards and other officers and officials, not the inmates. Some of the guards have let their power over these women go their heads and turned them into petty and overbearing bullies. The higher up the prison ladder you go, the less the people who are in charge seem to care about their jobs or about their charges, the prisoners.
But as bad as life at Danbury seems to Piper, she finds out it is greatly superior to many other prison facilities when she is taken out of there and shipped off the Chicago to testify in the trial of one of her fellow gang members. That period of her incarceration is the most difficult of all her time in prison.

I, for the most part, liked this book. It got kind of slow and draggy towards the middle but picked up quite a bit later on. It is an informative look at life in a low security prison and at how the prison system works in the USA. Reading all that she went through would make anyone think twice before running afoul of the criminal justice system. She also points out the many ways the prison system is failing society in its treatment of those in its care. And not only the prison system, but society itself, in its dealing with poverty, education and use of illegal drugs. But in the end, Piper only has herself to blame for her stint behind bars. She spends much of the story angry at the woman who turned her in. I think she comes to understand that the only person who is responsible for her predicament is Piper.

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