Image Credits: Book Cereal 

I recently blogged about the Top 5 Biggest Differences Between the Orange Is The New Black Show and the Book, but with such a great and powerful novel I feel like it deserves it’s own separate post reviewing it.

Piper Kerman was no criminal. She was not a dangerous woman. She was just a young adult who made some really, really bad decisions. Did she deserved to be punished for her actions? Absolutely. Did she deserve to be sentenced to a year in women’s prison for a crime committed 10 years ago? Not at all. But that is exactly what happened and what happens to many women everyday in the US.

I’ve always been anti drugs and anti legalization of drugs including marijuana. And I still hold those beliefs. But whereas before I believed that drug addicts deserved to be confined to prison, I’m not so sure I believe that anymore. Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black definitely helped me to reevaluate my beliefs.

Prison is a place that no one ever wants to be. You are completely blocked from the outside world. That seems to be the biggest punishment. You are alone with fellow inmates and your thoughts. Yes, you can have visitors — but they must be approved, your time will be short, and you can’t so much as give them a hug most of the time. This seems to be the harshest punishment in prison. Not that prison is a walk in the park.

Living in prison is hard. It’s supposed to be. The food is terrible (unless you’re lucky and there’s extra vegetables at the salad bar that day…then it’s almost manageable), you’re expected to do odd jobs you’re not qualified for (Piper was an electrician…), and you’re treated like a completely worthless, inhuman…thing. Not even a person.

I think that there are people out there in the world that deserve this kind of punishment. Child molesters (although I honestly don’t think prison is enough punishment for them…the death penalty sounds best to me), rapist, murders, etc. These are true criminals who do not belong in society.

The women detailed in Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black are not murderers. They are not rapists. They are not child molestors.

Honestly, they are not that much different from you and I. They just made poor decisions.

Piper was a drug smuggler. She bought in illegal drugs to and from the US for a VERY short time. Actually all she did was handle money. She was convicted 10 years after committing the crime. She was living a completely different life at the time, free of drugs and any other crime. She worked very hard and was in a faithful relationship with a man who really loved and took care of her.

Piper’s inmates were drug addicts mainly, who were serving very long sentences for possession or violation of probation. They needed help for their addictions. Rehab, therapy, inpatient, outpatient, something that could actually help them. Prison confined them and made it difficult (though not always impossible) for them to obtain drugs…but it didn’t correct the problem. Many of them ended up back in prison right after being released, mainly because while they were treated like criminals (which they weren’t, they were just people who made poor decisions…) they never actually received the help they so desperately needed.

Then there’s other inmates with even more mild crimes. Piper talks of one who was serving a very long sentence (I believe it was 5 or 7 years) for Internet auction fraud. E-bay. Have you ever been ripped off of a deal? I think we all have at some point. Did the person who ripped you off go to jail for it? Probably not. They were forgiven and allowed to move on with their life. Why was this girl any different? She made poor decisions…bad mistakes. She deserved to be punished. But by punishment I mean returning the money she stole and being fined and banned from the website(s). Jail? That’s a bit harsh, unnecessary, and ineffective.

What I liked the most about Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black is that it allows you to sympathize and relate to people you’d never imagine you could sympathize and relate to. What do I have in common with a prison inmate? Actually quite a few things. I’ve made poor decisions, I’ve made mistakes. I am human. I have feelings.

America’s prisons need to be reformed. It’s no secret that they are overcrowded. I now realize why they are over-crowded. It’s not because there’s such a high rate of crime and not enough prisons to fit everyone in. It’s because most of the people in prison really don’t need to be there.

Here’s what I propose:

Release a majority of prisoners unless they are TRUE criminals (example —  murderers, rapists, child molesters, terrorists, etc.)

Instead of sending drug addicts to prison, GET THEM HELP. Make them go to intense rehab/treatment facilities, counseling, etc.

Drug smugglers, those convicted for fraud and similar minor offenses should be fined.  If we start fining more people and limiting the number of people we send to prison we’ll cut down the costs of operating prisons, add more money to the economy, and lower America’s overall debt and help to solve the problem with prisons being overcrowded.

I learned a lot from reading Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black. This book completely changed how I view prisons and inmates. I highly recommend this book — it will definitely change how you think. It made me really want to see prison reform and it made me sympathize with inmates and want to help them as an alley. These are issues I never previously cared about and never thought I would want to take action against. I always thought “you do the crime, you do the time”. Now I’m not so sure how much I support that.

Have any of you guys read this book? If so feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts!