Prison Gray Because Orange Is Not the New Black*

Prison grays are what we wear in prison when we’re not uniforms. We wear gray shorts, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and sweatpants. In federal prison you’re only allowed to be out of uniform and in your grays after 4pm Monday –Friday, on weekends and holidays. I think that if Piper Kerman had called her book which came out in April 2010 “Prison Gray’, she would have been ahead of the curve. Her book “Orange is the New Black” about her time at the Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, CT came out while I was an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, CT. I remember reading an excerpt from her book in Marie Claire before it came out. Many of us at the camp read the excerpt. We were fascinated by this book coming out about our prison and we were there at that moment. Before it came out we used to wonder, “Why it was called “Orange is the New Black”? Our uniforms were olive green. The only place orange was worn was in the SHU. Was Piper in the SHU? A number of women had their families order the book for them. You can’t have a family member send in a hardcover book. It has to be sent in from a service like Amazon. If you didn’t get the book, you read someone else’s. A lot of women had a long list of people waiting to read their copy. I finally gave in and got on someone’s list.
When I was in Danbury women who had long sentences (five years or more) didn’t really befriend women who had short sentences like a year and a day. In her relationship with Pop, Piper doesn’t seem to have that understanding of the women she’s around. Did Piper know that there were women in the Camp at Danbury who were incarcerated with her who were still there when the book came out in April 2010? One of the women at my prison job, who had been in prison for a long time, was mentioned in the book. I was incarcerated with a lot of white women, many of whom were soccer moms, none of whom were treated like they didn’t belong there. I didn’t appreciate the racist undertone of Murder Ave. I worked near Myrtle Ave in Fort Green for a number of years and never heard it referred to like that. Piper told other women’s stories? No, she exploited them. Well I guess Piper had no choice but to do that as her story is neither compelling nor interesting.
Piper’s lucky that she’s well connected that she never had to endure the hardships that women like me suffer post incarceration. Now her lousy book is being turned into a TV show. As we used to say at camp, “Piper was just well connected”. My overall impression is that most women didn’t think that the book was anything to write home about. If you want to read a good book about prison, “Lessons from San Quentin “by Bill Dallas. Bill Dallas is very respectful of his fellow inmates.
*DISCLAIMER: I was not incarcerated with Piper Kerman and I do not know her.


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