If you didn’t live under a rock and had an Internet connection this summer, chances are you watched the Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.” What you may not have realized, though, is the show and its main character, Piper Chapman, are based on the memoir “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” by Piper Kerman.
Kerman wrote her memoirs in hopes of spreading awareness for the need of prison reform and also to help alleviate negative notions associated with current and previously incarcerated men and women. Kerman will be coming to MU on Feb. 5 for a presentation put on by the Missouri Students Association’s Department of Student Activities.
“We try to focus on bringing speakers that have a pop culture connection but also talk about something with substance,” says Cale Sears, the speakers senior chairman for DSA.
Kerman travels across the country speaking to different organizations as a communication consultant for Spitfire Strategies, working toward betterment in a variety of aspects in the public interest, according to her website. Most of those aspects are centered around prison reform, the difficulties reformed individuals face on the other side of the prison walls, and expressing her story and what she experienced during her 15 months in federal prison.
“She does this because she wants to spread the word about what happens behind the walls of a prison,” Sears says. “She wants people to understand what it’s really like there, so people don’t make mistakes and get there, or have some compassion for people who are there.”
Kerman focuses strongly on reformed, previously incarcerated individuals and their experiences after they’re released. Kerman states on her website there is a “complete lack of guidance for life after prison,” and that’s something that she addresses as a top priority for reform.
The presentation will be tailored to university students: a cautionary tale of how easy it is to get caught up in the wrong crowds and get in trouble, as well as a little about her experiences both in and out of prison.
“(The talk) will be a mixture of experiences with the Netflix series because she is a producer for the show now and also talk about her experience being in prison,” Sears says.
After the presentation, there will be an opportunity to have Kerman sign individual copies of “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” and for audience members to ask a few questions.
The presentation will be Feb. 5 in the Missouri Theatre, and it will be a non-ticketed show open to anyone who would like to hear about Kerman’s experiences — as well as maybe some insight on what is to come in the second season of “Orange is the New Black,” which is due out this spring.