The first women's federal prison, Alderson in West Virginia, was opened for business in 1927. The same prison Martha Stewart reported to in 2004. Piper Kerman also began serving her prison term in 2004, reporting to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury. She chronicles her experience in Orange Is The New Black and the basis for the Netflix series.
Much like Susanna in Girl Interrupted, Piper is a privileged protagonist. As her story unfolds, she exposes the different faces of privilege through her interactions with fellow inmates. Issues of race, sexuality, mental health and poverty are explored. Some of the women will have options when they are released, others will not.
The Library has several other titles about women serving time. A World Apart by Cristina Rathbone is not only a memoir but a call for social justice. Inside This Place, Not Of It is a collection of narratives from women in prison. There is also a compelling documentary titled What I Want My Words To Do To You. Produced by Eve Ensler, the film follows fifteen women serving time for murder as they participate in a writing workshop.
In May 2013, the Denver Post reported Colorado has the highest rate of inmate sexual assaults by correctional staff. A month later, The Atlantic reviewed world-wide prison statistics and noted "about one-fourth of all incarcerated people on Earth is in the U.S....the land of the free has become the home of the jailed." Orange Is The New Black holds a compact mirror up to a messy problem.
I never knew that my favorite new show was based on a true book! thanks, I'll have to check it out.
If you are interested in reading more about prison reform, read Race to Incarcerate by Marc Mauer. Originally published in 1999 when Mauer worked for the Sentencing Project, the title has been republished in 2013 as a graphic nonfiction book and includes an excellent updated foreword by Mauer. The Library has copies so check it out.
Will the library purchase the Netflix series?
We will purchase the series if it is released on DVD. I expect that it will be because House of Cards (another netflix series) was released on DVD and distributed by library vendors. We will keep an eye out for it.