On Wednesday, February 3rd, I will be reporting to Federal prison to begin serving a 15-month sentence.
So, without further ado, I present the long awaited Piper Kerman Is Going to Federal Prison FAQ.
For the purposes of the PKIGTFP FAQ, I will be referring to myself in the third person, just for the hell of it.
Piper ... Federal prison? Wha'happen?
When Piper was a young pup she was involved with some unsavory characters, and traveled in some unusual circles - put this circa 1993, post-Smith College. There were unpleasant drug-related things happening, often in exotic locales. She broke ties with those folks, and made her way to SF, where she became the nice blonde lady you know.
Piper was indicted in Federal court in Chicago on criminal conspiracy and money-laundering charges in 1998. She eventually negotiated a plea deal with the Federal government, agreeing to plead guilty to the money-laundering charge and to serve a 15-month sentence.
That's ten years since she broke the law.
What about the statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations is 12 years.
But I thought nice blonde ladies with loving families, Seven Sisters degrees and no priors always got off?
That was often true before the mid-80s, at which time the Federal government enacted mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for all drug-related crimes. These guidelines essentially remove most judicial discretion from sentencing, placing much of the power to determine sentences in the hands of prosecutors. Without mandatory minimums, Piper would almost certainly have been sentenced to probation and community service.
Federal mandatory minimums (and similar state policies like New York's Rockefeller drug laws) have incarcerated thousands of non-violent drug offenders who might otherwise have been punished in different ways, and are the primary reason that there has been a 300% increase in the number of women incarcerated in the last decade (80% of whom are mothers).
For more info on mandatory minimum sentencing and its effects on individuals and families, take a look at FAMM.org (Families Against Mandatory Minimums). Good information about the government's drug war can be found at the site of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Where will Piper do her time?
Piper will be residing at the Women's Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, Connecticut.
What kind of place is the prison?
Will Piper get in fights every day?
Will it be like the Wendy O. Williams classic "Reform School Girls"?
Will Martha Stewart be there?
Piper does not expect to get in fights every day. Most female Federal inmates are serving sentences for white-collar crimes, property crimes and drug-related crimes. Most inmates in minimum-security facilities are either serving short sentences and non-violent like Piper or have worked their way down from a longer sentence and are close to release. Martha's fate has yet to be resolved, but needless to say Piper will watch her back should they cross paths.
Can I write to Piper?
Piper desperately wants you to write to her. She will of course write you back.
You can write to Piper at:
33 1/2 Pembroke Road Route 37
Danbury, Connecticut 06811-3099
Please keep in mind that your correspondence will be opened and read before it gets to Piper.
Can I send her some cookies or something?
No. You can send these items only:
Letter-type mail (encouraged!)
Photos (up to five at a time, no Polaroids)
Soft cover books (up to five at a time, no hardcover)
Magazines (up to five at a time, no newspapers)
You can send hardcover books and publications to Piper via the publisher or someplace like Amazon. Piper has in fact begun a Wish List at Amazon.com that you can look up using her name, but please send her anything and everything that you think might be interesting to read from your (paperback) bookshelf. She'll be very happy and grateful to receive it.
I heard Connecticut is nice this time of year and is in fact quite delightful throughout the four seasons. Can I visit?
Yes! Piper would love as many visitors as she can get. But be forewarned, anyone who wants to visit must be approved first by the prison. There are forms that you will need to fill out, you need to submit your Social Security number, and they will do a background check. There are stringently enforced rules for the actual visits, including a dress code. So there's some lead time involved. Plan accordingly.
In the event that you don't mind having the Federales up in your business, visiting hours are:
Thursday and Friday (every week), 12:30pm - 8pm;
Saturday and Sunday and Federal holidays, 8:30am - 3pm (odd-numbered dates)
You can visit Piper if the Saturday or Sunday or Federal holiday falls on an odd day of the month (e.g.: Sunday, March 7 - YES; Saturday March 6, NO.) There's also an insane explanation found at 203-743-6471.
33 1/2 Pembroke Road
Danbury, Connecticut 06811-3099
You can also reach Danbury, CT, via the MetroNorth train that leaves from Grand Central Station. You can then take a taxi to the prison.
How's Larry? Should I buy him dinner or something?
You should take extra-special care of Larry, not to mention keeping a close eye on him. Go to the movies, invite him to parties and make him lots of home-cooked meals (allergies: shellfish, chocolate), and keep in mind that Piper expects to be at her fighting weight and mean as a snake when she gets out.
How are the cats doing?