Piper Kerman

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Piper Kerman
Kerman at the University of Missouri in 2014
Born (1969-09-28) September 28, 1969 (age 54)
Alma materSmith College
  • Writer
  • author
  • memoirist
Notable workOrange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
(m. 2006)

Piper Eressea Kerman[2] (born September 28, 1969) is an American author. She was indicted in 1998 on charges of felonious money-laundering activities, and sentenced to 15 months' detention in a federal correctional facility, of which she eventually served 13 months. Her memoir of her prison experiences, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison (2010), was adapted into the critically-acclaimed Netflix original comedy-drama series Orange Is the New Black (2013). Since leaving prison, Kerman has spoken widely about women in prison and problems with the federal prison system. She now works as a communication strategist for non-profit organizations.

Early life and education[edit]

Kerman was born in Boston[1] into a family with a number of attorneys, doctors and educators.[1] She graduated from Swampscott High School in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1987,[3] and Smith College in 1992.[4] Kerman is a self-described WASP; however, she had a paternal grandfather who was Russian-Jewish.[4][5]

Criminal career[edit]

In 1993, Kerman became romantically involved with Catherine Cleary Wolters (Nora Janson in her memoir: Laura Prepon's character Alex Vause in the series),[6] a heroin dealer working for an alleged Nigerian kingpin.[7][8] Kerman laundered money for the drug operation.[7]

In 1998, Kerman was indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking and she pled guilty.[7] Starting in 2004, she served 13 months of a 15-month sentence at FCI Danbury, a minimum security prison located in Danbury, Connecticut.[9]

During her sentence, she built her website "The Pipe Bomb" to document her life behind bars.[10]

Later career[edit]

Kerman's best-selling memoir about her experiences in prison, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, was published by Spiegel & Grau on April 6, 2010. A television adaptation of the same name created by Jenji Kohan, the Emmy award-winning creator of Weeds, premiered on July 11, 2013, on Netflix and aired for seven seasons. Kerman's character in the series ("Piper Chapman") is played by Taylor Schilling. Orange is the New Black has received critical acclaim and won four Emmy Awards.[11][12]

Kerman serves on the board of the Women's Prison Association and is frequently invited to speak to students of creative writing, criminology, gender and women's studies law, and sociology, and to groups, like the American Correctional Association's Disproportionate Minority Confinement Task Force, federal probation officers, public defenders, justice reform advocates and volunteers, book club and formerly and currently incarcerated people.[citation needed]

On February 10, 2014, Kerman received the 2014 Justice Trailblazer Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Center on Media, Crime & Justice.[13]

On February 25, 2014, Kerman testified at a hearing on "Reassessing Solitary Confinement" before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights chaired by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin.[14]

On August 4, 2015, Kerman testified at a hearing on "Oversight of the Bureau of Prisons: First-Hand Accounts of Challenges Facing the Federal Prison System" before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chaired by Senator Ron Johnson.[15]

Since 2015, Kerman has worked as a communications strategist for nonprofits.[16]

Since her prison sentence, Kerman has spoken publicly many times on behalf of women in corrections and about her experience.[17]

In 2019, she appeared as a guest in the last episode of Orange Is the New Black in the last scene in the Ohio prison, when Piper visited Alex. Kerman sat two seats to the left of Alex as a convict visited by her husband (in real life). She makes a cameo appearance in the show’s opening credits as the convict who blinks.

Personal life[edit]

Kerman has said, "I'm bisexual, so I'm a part of the gay community (LGBT+)".[18] She came out around the age of 18, and identified herself as a lesbian during most of her youth.[18] On May 21, 2006,[2] Kerman married writer Larry Smith.[2] Kerman and Smith live in Columbus, Ohio, and she teaches writing classes at the Marion Correctional Institution and the Ohio Reformatory for Women in nearby Marysville, Ohio.[19][20] She does not identify with any religion. She was awarded the 'Humanist Heroine of the Year Award' from the 'Humanist Hub' group at Harvard University.[21]


See also[edit]

  • Teresa Giudice, reality star and media personality whose prison memoir, Turning the Tables (2015), describes her 15-month incarceration from 2015 to 2016, for fraud, at the Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury, CT
  • Martha Stewart, celebrity who was incarcerated from 2004 to 2005, for offenses related to insider trading, at Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, WV


  1. ^ a b c Lee Ball, Aimee (August 2, 2013). "Prison Life, Real and Onscreen". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c "Piper Kerman and Larry Smith". The New York Times. May 21, 2006.
  3. ^ Solomon, Jared (November 2, 2013). "'Orange is the New Black' Author is Blue". Patch. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Young, Robin (July 29, 2013). "The Woman Behind 'Orange is the New Black'". WBUR-FM. Boston University. Archived from the original on August 23, 2013. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  5. ^ Kerman, Piper (April 11, 2013). "Response on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  6. ^ "The Real Alex of Orange is the New Black Speaks for the First Time". Vanity Fair. April 15, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Humphrey, Michael (March 25, 2010). "Ex-Convict Piper Kerman on Her Hot New Memoir, Orange Is the New Black". New York Magazine. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  8. ^ Segur, Liliana (April 1, 2010). "Orange Is the New Black: A Year in a Women's Prison". Truthout. Archived from the original on June 6, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  9. ^ Grose, Jessica (April 8, 2010). "What's a Nice Blonde Like Me Doing in Prison?". Slate.
  10. ^ Paige, Rachel (July 23, 2015). "How Long Was Piper In Prison In Real Life? The 'Orange Is The New Black' Author Documented Her Time With A Website". Bustle. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  11. ^ "Why Netflix Renewed 'Orange is the New Black' for Three Seasons". Indiewire. February 5, 2016. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  12. ^ "Awards Search". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  13. ^ "2014 Justice Trailblazer Award Dinner - Honoring Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black". jjay.cuny.edu. February 10, 2014. Archived from the original on July 2, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  14. ^ "Testimony of Piper Kerman, author, Orange is the New Black". YouTube. February 26, 2014. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
  15. ^ "Testimony of Piper Kerman, author, Orange is the New Black". Senate. August 4, 2015. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "Piper Kerman". CityArts.net.
  17. ^ "Piper Kerman | Events".
  18. ^ a b Lynn Yeldell. "The REAL Piper of Orange is the New Black". L Style G Style. Archived from the original on June 17, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
  19. ^ Jeannie Nuss. "'Orange Is the New Black' author Piper Kerman shares her story in Westerville". The Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  20. ^ Nuss, Jeannie (May 31, 2015). "Author of 'Orange Is The New Black' explains move to Columbus". The Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on June 2, 2015. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  21. ^ Scene and Heard: Piper Kerman | Magazine | The Harvard Crimson. (n.d.). https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/4/9/scene-and-heard-piper/

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