Orange is the New Black Author Speaks at White House About Criminal Rehabilitation

Piper Kerman spoke about her transition from the justice system back into the community

"Orange is the New Black" author Piper Kerman said leaving prison life behind was like "shedding skin" at the White House Monday.

Kerman was there as part of the White House's Champions of Change campaign to discuss the potential good that people can do in the community after their release from prisons and jail -- as well as the difficulties they face in returning home.

"The transition from prison or jail back to the community is challenging," she said. "You have to shed your skin as a prisoner essentially and become a productive citizen again.

"I think the thing that 'Orange is the New Black' communicates to folks ... is that the millions of people who have been locked away in our prisons, our jails, are just that, they’re people," Kerman said. "They’re people who have made mistakes but they’re also people who have incredible chances at redemption and transformation."

Kerman was incarcerated in 2004 for drug trafficking and money laundering. After her release, she wrote her best-selling book about her experiences. Netflix developed the book into a hugely popular show, and Kerman has used its popularity to speak about the process of rehabilitation.

She said that it was a process that everyone will need help with.

"I needed help," she said. "So do the 700,000 people who are returning home from prison and jail every single year in this country."

Kerman was joined by people who work to increase the employment options for people returning from prison and to help make their transition back into society smoother.

"All of these champions that we’re honoring today have proved through their work that change is possible and that people can come to the community and make an incredibly big contribution," Kerman said.

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