John Jay College’s Center on Media, Crime & Justice will bestow the 2014 Justice Trailblazer Award on Piper Kerman, whose 2010 best-selling memoir was the inspiration for the critically acclaimed Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, adapted by Jenji Kohan, creator of Weeds. Orange is the New Black has been lauded by The New Yorker, People Magazine, and The New York Times. The Washington Post called it “The Best TV Show about Prison Ever Made.”
Kerman will be presented with the award on February 10 at a dinner during the 9th annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, where winners of the 2013-2014 national Criminal Justice Journalism awards will also be announced. Next year’s Feb 10-11 Symposium, entitled “Justice and Prosperity,” will focus on efforts to restore the economic potential of the lives and communities damaged by now-discredited “tough on crime” policies.
"The Center has nominated Kerman for this unique recognition because of her boundary-pushing work in creating Orange is the New Black. By opening our eyes to so many aspects of the system, particularly as it affects women, she has indeed been a trailblazer in the effort to raise public consciousness about the contradictions of that system, and to bolster the fight to ensure our country lives up to its promise of ‘equal justice for all,” said Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College.
The Justice Trailblazer Award honors individuals from the media and related fields who have expanded public awareness about the challenges and complexities of criminal justice. . David Simon, creator of The Wire, was honored in 2013.
In 2010, Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison published by Spiegel & Grau in 2010, was based on her experiences in FCI Danbury, a minimum security prison located in Danbury, Connecticut, where she served a 15-month sentence for money laundering and drug-trafficking.
"We're especially proud to honor Piper as our 2014 Justice Trailblazer, not just for her contribution to changing the way we think about our justice system, but also in recognition of her own hard-won personal transformation," said Stephen Handelman, director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay. "She's an inspiration to thousands of currently incarcerated individuals who are working towards a second chance in society, and to journalists who write about them."
A native of Boston who attended Smith College, Kerman frequently speaks to students studying law, criminology, gender and women’s studies, sociology, and creative writing. She’s also addressed the American Correctional Association’s Disproportionate Minority Confinement Task Force, federal probation officers, public defenders, justice reform advocates and volunteers, book clubs, and formerly and currently incarcerated people. She serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association.
Kerman works with Spitfire Strategies as a communications consultant with public interest organizations. Her clients include the Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and many nonprofits.
The John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium is the only national gathering that brings together journalists, legislators, policymakers, scholars and practitioners for candid on-the-record discussions on emerging issues of U.S. criminal justice. Confirmed speakers for the 2014 sessions include: Rick Raemisch and Jeff Beard, corrections chiefs of Colorado and California, respectively; Bill Sabol, acting director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics; Al Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University and 2011 winner of the Stockholm Prize for Criminology; Carol Naughton, CEO of Purpose Built Communities in Atlanta; and Timothy Ryan, former head of the FBI cybercrimes investigation unit.
Overall support for the conference and reporting fellowships comes from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Ford Foundation, and the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project. The Center on Media, Crime and Justice, established at John Jay College in 2006, is the nation's only practice- and research-oriented think tank devoted to encouraging and developing high-quality reporting on criminal justice, and to promoting better-informed public debate on the complex 21st century challenges of law enforcement, public security and justice in a globalized urban society. The Center also publishes the nation’s most comprehensive daily online news and resource service for criminal justice—The Crime Report. For more information, visit http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/cmcj or www.thecrimereport.org
About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu.