Given renowned Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman’s extensive work as an advocate on behalf of those in the criminal justice system, her keynote speech at Thursday’s Annual Meeting came at an ideal time.
Earlier this week, the BBA released a report entitled No Time to Wait: Recommendations for a Fair and Effective Criminal Justice System, which calls for reforms to reduce recidivism and make the Massachusetts’ criminal justice system fairer and more cost-efficient. At the same time, the Massachusetts Senate has taken up a bill aimed at enacting some of these reforms.
Kerman voiced her strong support for the BBA report at the event, after sharing her own story and stories of many women whom she met during the time she was incarcerated or afterwards through the Women’s Prison Association. In writing Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Kerman said she was motivated to “give people a different idea” of who goes to prison and why they are there.
Throughout her speech, Kerman emphasized how lucky she is to have been able to afford to access justice. Because she was able to afford quality representation, she received a light sentence for a felony money-laundering charge where others are not as fortunate.
“The rules have not been evenly applied across society,” she said. “[Prisons] are tools that have been used primarily against certain populations over time.”
This disparity is addressed in No Time to Wait. BBA President Mark Smith thanked members of the BBA Criminal Justice Reform Working Group, in particular the Co-Chairs, who were responsible for drafting the report’s recommendations. He also conferred the BBA’s Distinguished Legislator Award on Representative Kay Khan in recognition of her tireless work on behalf of disenfranchised populations, particularly women in prison.
“The BBA believes as I do…that the criminal justice system must treat everyone fairly,” Khan said.
Representative Khan is the founder and co-chair of the Task Force on Justice-Involved Women and Their Children, under the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. She is an outspoken advocate for progressive public health, mental health, human services, and criminal justice policies. She has also pursued the implantation of evidence-based reforms that positively impact vulnerable populations in Massachusetts.
With more than a thousand in attendance, the event was an inspiring call-to-action to combat injustices in our criminal justice system, and we would like to thank everyone who joined us to network and learn more about this cause!