|Piper Kerman at Alaska|
Bar Convention in Anchorage
Over the last 10 years, according to Kerman, there has been a 650% increase in the rate of incarceration of women. This is not because of a female crime wave but because of harsh punishments. Two-thirds of incarcerated girls and women are there for drug offenses and property crimes - this is more indicative of the system doubling down on harsh punishment rather than more crime, according to Kerman.
The Netflix series, "Orange is the New Black," looks at the lives of women in prison. The story lines in the series - which has been renewed for a 7th season - have traveled far from Kerman's memoir and explore the lives of people in and out of jail.
An audience member brought up Alaska's efforts at criminal justice reform with SB91 and asked Kerman how society's need for retribution is best addressed while tackling reform. Kerman recommended switching the conversation to accountability rather than retribution. What would accountability look like without banishment - which is essentially what prison does, she asked.
When asked about the most important avenues to reform, Kerman responded that it is in the hands of prosecutors to reduce charges -- which will reduce prison sentences. And that criminal justice reform needs good messengers to be successful. She referenced the Vera Institute of Justice as an organization that provides good information regarding social justice reform.