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J-Term Book Club 2015-Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

piper5We would like to share the discussions questions for “Orange is the New Black”

Week 2
1. Table introductions:
• Who is your favorite character, and why?
2. Summarize key points from this week’s chapters that outline Piper’s story.

3. On pages 78-79, Piper says:
“…it was a clear demonstration that I ‘had it like that’ on the outside, a network of people who had both a concern for me and the time and money to buy me books…I saw that some of the women had little or no resources from the outside to help make their prison life livable.”
• What other examples of social capital have you noticed in the book?
• Can you think of a way that people without social capital are affected outside of prison? At UST?

4. Piper references conditions in county jails on page 125, calling them “universally nasty, full of drunks, prostitutes, and junkies.” She goes on to say that conditions were better at Danbury, a federal prison.
• Piper says it costs $30,000/year to incarcerate a prisoner (p. 138). Given the descriptions of Danbury’s conditions, does this surprise you? Why or why not?

5. One of the guards at Danbury was prosecuted for sexually abusing prisoners and served one month in jail (p. 130). Does the punishment fit the crime? How are perceptions of power-based violence similar or different outside prison?

Week 3

Piper refers to Danbury as a “Human Warehouse” in chapter 10. She later says, “A lengthy term of community service working with addicts on the outside would probably have driven the same truth home and been a hell of a lot more productive for the community,” (p. 180)

What do you think? Was it necessary for piper to go to prison?

Think back to our conversation about social capital—Piper mentions that she had a job lined up for her when she left prison.  Do you think this is common for inmates?

What are some challenges you can think of for women who are trying to rejoin society after imprisonment?

How might new policies keep these women from returning to prison?

Piper has a realization of the consequences of her actions which led her to Danbury.  She looks at Allie and Pennsatuckey, who suffer from addiction, and acknowledges the role she had in others’ addictions.

    • Do you think she feels real remorse?
    • Do you hold her, and other suppliers, accountable?
  • Our presenter and contact information- Sarah King –MnCoSA Volunteer Coordinator –Sarah.King@state.mn.us

Week 4

 

  • Discuss some of the connections that Piper made with the other inmates at Danbury. What does she learn from them?
  • Which of the other stories that were shared over the course of the memoir did you find particularly intriguing?Piper says, “I was eager to offer what I had, which was more than I had realized. Judging others held little appeal to me now, and when I did it, I regretted it.” (Ch. 15)
    • What other ways did piper transform during her time in prison?
  • After reading Orange Is the New Black, do you think our prison system is successful? Do you think its dramatic growth over the last thirty years—nearly 400 percent more Americans in prison—is a good thing for the country?
    • Why or why not?
    • What do you think the author is trying to accomplish by telling her story?
  • What are some questions that you have for piper Kerman when she comes to campus on March 25th?

 

 

 

 

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