ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
August 13, 2013
Guests: Susan Myrick, Piper Kerman, Jeff Smith, William Barber, Richard
Hasen, Randall Kennedy
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
Tonight on ALL IN:
It`s the hottest show not on television. Netflix`s true story women`s
prison drama "Orange is the New Black." Tonight, I`ll be joined by Piper
Kerman, the author of the book and inspiration for the show`s lead
character. You definitely want to stick around for that.
Plus, did the Department of Justice really try to change a bunch of
numbers on its Web site and hope we didn`t notice? Well, we noticed.
That and a collection of other political sneakiness coming up.
But we begin tonight with what appears to be the most restrictive
voting measure passed in this country in the Deep South since the Voting
Rights Act was signed in 1965. Speaking of sneakiness, the bill was signed
last night by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, more than two weeks
after it passed with no live ceremony, not even so much as a picture, just
this weird 90-second hostage-style video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Hi. I`m Governor Pat McCrory.
The integrity of our election process is vital to our democracy, which is
why I`ve signed today several common sense reforms into law, including
Let me be direct: many of those from the extreme left who have been
criticizing photo ID are using scare tactics. They`re more interested in
divisive politics than ensuring that no one`s vote is disenfranchised by
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, what the governor doesn`t mention about this bill is that
while, yes, it is a voter ID bill, voter ID is just a small portion of the
bill, what the bill actually does. And only a part of what those of us on
the extreme left have been criticizing.
Not only does the bill require a government-issued photo ID to vote,
something the state estimates more than 300,000 registered voters in state
do not have, it also eliminates preregistration for 16-year-olds and 17-
year-olds, slashes the early voting period from 17 days to 10, bans same-
day registration, ends straight-ticket voting, and my personal favorite
because I cannot think of one single valid justification, bans early voting
on Sunday. And that`s just a taste.
But the people of North Carolina are not fooled. Governor Pat
McCrory`s approval ratings are in a tailspin, down 22 points since May,
with only 40 percent of North Carolinians approving his job performance.
The bill, itself, despite the claims of state Republicans to the
contrary, is not popular. According to the latest PPP polling, only 39
percent support the bill, while 50 percent oppose it.
Today, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan from North Carolina wrote to urge
the Justice Department to immediately review North Carolina House bill 589
and take all appropriate steps to protect federal civil rights and the
fundamental right to vote.
North Carolina is now drawing national fire. Hillary Clinton went out
of her way last night at the American Bar Association to go after the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Legislators in North
Carolina push through a bill that reads like the greatest hits of voter
suppression -- restricted early voting, no more same-day registration, or
extending voting hours to accommodate long lines, stricter photo ID
requirements disqualify those issued by colleges or public assistance
agencies, and it goes on and on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We`re in the post-Voting Rights Act legal word, and North
Carolina will be the first battleground around a new voter restriction law
in this world, a test case of just how much Southern Republicans can get
away with in the wake of the Roberts decision, and one that the ACLU and
the NAACP will fight in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, NC NAACP: Our complaint and lawsuit
will show how this voter suppression deal and its many eerie elements
revisit the tactics of Jim Crow in the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Joining me now, Susan Myrick, policy analyst at Civitas
Institute, a conservative think tank in North Carolina.
Susan, my first question is -- one of the things this bill does is it
moves back the end of early voting, so it has to end Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
It used to extend through Sunday.
What evidence do you have that there`s a disproportionate amount of
voter fraud committed in the 30 hours or so between 1:00 p.m. on Saturday
and the end of Sunday?
SUSAN MYRICK, CIVITAS INSTITUTE: Well, actually, early voting always
stops on Saturday. Sometimes, the local boards could extend it to 5:00 on
Saturday, but we`ve never had early voting on Sunday.
HAYES: So what is the --
MYRICK: On the last Sunday.
HAYES: OK. What is the reason for those four -- that four-hour
difference to ban that extra four hours on Saturday?
MYRICK: I can`t tell you the difference between the four hours. It
just takes that option away from the counties. Four hours.
HAYES: OK. What about this 16-year-old and 17-year-old
preregistration program for high school students, which has also been done
away with in the bill? What evidence is there that those 16-year-old and
17-year-olds were committing some disproportionate amount of fraud?
MYRICK: Well, I don`t think there was any evidence they were
committing fraud. I think the 16-year-old and 17-year-old legislation
really went nowhere. While the proponents thought it would encourage young
people to vote, all it really did was put their personal information on a
Web site so anybody could access if.
In North Carolina, if you went to a high school and asked for the
names and addresses of 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds, there`s not a school
in North Carolina that would hand that over to you.
HAYES: But there`s no --
MYRICK: What this bill did was put that information on a Web site
that anybody could access.
HAYES: But there was no evidence that those kids were committing any
kind of fraud, that you had to end the program.
MYRICK: There was not.
HAYES: What about the idea of provisional ballots? I thought this
was a really interesting provision of the law. You go and you accidentally
go to the wrong precincts. Precincts are rather small. People get them
mixed up. I`ve gotten mixed up in my precinct in my life.
If you go to the precinct under current New Carolina law, you can cast
a provisional ballot. If it later turns out you`re at the wrong precinct,
your votes for positions above the precinct level, the county level,
president of the United States, the governor, those still count. After the
new law, that gets all thrown out.
And I`m curious, what is the rationale for that?
MYRICK: Well, I think what the new law is doing is letting people
know that they have more than 50 days to vote. If on the very last day, on
Election Day, they go to the wrong polling place, their wrong precinct
which is usually the closest one to their house, they`re going to be
directed to the right one.
If it`s too late to go to that one, they`ll be allowed to vote a
provisional ballot. Now, it probably won`t be counted. But that`s if they
two at the last minute.
HAYES: And you also have this provision in the bill that anyone from
the county on election day can challenge a voter saying they actually
don`t, aren`t at the address that they`re supposedly reported at, and that
just strikes me as an invitation for all kinds of vigilante justice and
I live in a county with 2 million people, Kings County. If I drove
miles from my house, I can go somewhere else and start calling people out.
It`s not having the right address.
What is the logic to unleash the populous on each other in this
MYRICK: I don`t think it`s unleashing the populous. They`re allowing
ten extra people to be appointed at large poll observers. If they`re in a
precinct, they can challenge a voter, but that`s not the reason they`ve
added the additional poll observers, and it`s just ten per county.
HAYES: Susan Myrick --
MYRICK: Per party. Every party gets to do that.
HAYES: Susan Myrick from the Civitas Institute., I really appreciate
you joining us tonight. Thanks a lot.
MYRICK: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining me now is Reverend William Barber, president of the
North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. And Rick Hasen, professor of law and
political science at UC-Irvine School of Law, and author of the book
"Voting Wars: From the Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown."
Reverend Barber, I`ll begin with you. I`m curious your reaction to
the justifications for the bill we just heard. They all seem to run in one
direction which is making it harder for people to vote across the board.
BARBER: There is no justification. This is a vulgar display of the
misuse of political power to manipulate political outcomes. This is what
we have called a monster bill.
It is clearly targeted at voter suppression. It`s not about voter ID.
Thirty-four percent of those without voter ID, over 300,000 people, are
minorities, are African-American.
African-Americans used early voting. Seventy percent of those who
voted used early voting, and they`re attacking early voting, they`re
putting forth a voter ID, that`s more stringent in Alabama, South Carolina.
And 34 percent of African-Americans use the same-day registration.
They`re ending same-day registration. Turning loose these vigilantes to go
into these polling places.
This is our governor deciding to join the interposition and nullifiers
like in the 1960s, George Wallace, Strom Thurmond. He`s on the wrong side
of history. This is extreme, and it`s a fundamental crime against
democracy and attack on our voting rights.
HAYES: Rick, you are -- Reverend Barber is an activist, obviously.
He`s been working on this issue in North Carolina.
You`re an academic. You study election law. You write about election
law. You`re probably the most read election law scholar, certainly, that I
know of. Where does this bill rank in the spectrum of restrictive voting
RICHARD HASEN, UC IRVINE SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, you know, almost every
piece of this kind of law has appeared elsewhere, but I`ve never seen
rolled into one bill all of these things -- rollbacks on early voting,
cutbacks on voter registration, same-day registration, new absentee ballot
restrictions, photo ID. I`ve never seen it all together.
I think that the Republican legislature came into power in North
Carolina and John Roberts freed them from the restrictions of the Voting
Rights Act and they went to town in the biggest bill that they could write.
HAYES: Reverend, we saw tape of you announcing the lawsuit. What is
the next step here for the fight against this bill which this round of the
battle is lost. It has been passed. It has been signed. It`s going to
start going into effect. Some provisions, quickly. Some not until 2016.
What is the next step in the battle here?
BARBER: Your guess is right. These folk are acting as though they
are back in 1877, when the United States armed troops were pulled out of
South Carolina and the former slave owners felt like they could do whatever
they wanted to do.
The reality is the 14th Amendment is still in place, the 15th
Amendment, the 24th Amendment, and Sections 2, 3, and 5 of the Voting
Rights Act. First of all, we`re asking, this lawsuit is asking that the
state be enjoined. We`re also calling on the attorney general to do what
Senator Hagan said, to come in as he did in Texas.
More so, Chris, we -- this lawsuit, the NAACP`s lawsuit is tied to a
movement. You know, we`ve been 15 weeks straight having Moral Monday,
thousands of people gathering, 10,000 people last week in Asheville.
We are mobilizing through voter education, voter registration. We
have direct action going on.
HAYES: So there`s going to be more coming in terms of moving in a
parallel track with the legal -- Rick, the Section 2 part of this lawsuit,
which is part of the Voting Rights Act which is an individual cause of
action. How likely is that to succeed in your estimation?
HASEN: Well, it`s tough. I mean, this is one of the reasons why we
were so upset that the Supreme Court effectively struck down Section 5
which would have required North Carolina, because of 40 of its counties
being covered under Section 5, to get approval from the Voting Rights
Department, the Department of Justice, to show that this wouldn`t make the
position of minority voters worse off.
A Section 2 claim is very tough to win. A Section 3 claim, which is
also being asked for, to try to get preclearance restored, is going to be
very tough to get without proof of intentional racial discrimination, some
kind of smoking gun, something. All of the other options are not nearly as
good as what we had before June when the Supreme Court issued its opinion.
HAYES: Reverend William Barber from the NAACP, and Rick Hasen from
the UC-Irvine School of Law -- thank you gentlemen, both. I appreciate.
HASEN: Thank you.
BARBER: Thank you so much. God bless.
HAYES: We have an interview coming up that you do not want to miss.
The woman who inspired "Orange is the New Black," Piper Kerman, will be
We`ll be right back.
HAYES: White people don`t like affirmative action unless they`re
getting something out of it. I`ll explain coming up.
And have you been watching "Orange is the New Black"? It is so, so
good. The woman who inspired the Netflix show will be right here in studio
HAYES: There seems to be a spate of stories today involving
politicians trying to sneak one by us, fine print, and then hoping we
wouldn`t notice. So, with a hat tip to Rev Al, I think it`s time for us to
play -- nice try, guys.
First up, on Friday, President Obama came before the American people
and announced new independent oversight of government spying designed to
ensure the protection of Americans` privacy rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re forming a high
level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and
communications technologies. I`m tasking this independent group to step
back and review our capabilities, particularly our surveillance
technologies. And they`ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the
people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of
how these surveillance technologies are used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Independent group of high-level outside experts to make sure
government spies are not abusing their power.
After making that announcement, the president promptly left town,
heading out to Martha`s Vineyard on vacation, which I am not hating on. I
just took vacation, myself, last week.
But then, yesterday, with the president out of town, the White House
released a follow-up memo on this outside independent watchdog group.
Here`s what we learned about how this new oversight is actually going
to work. The independent outside panel is going to be created by this guy,
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence -- also known as the
guy who straight-up lied to Congress back in March about the NSA`s
collecting of data on Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Does the NSA collect any type of data at
all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: No, sir.
WYDEN: It does not?
CLAPPER: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could
inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.
I was asked "when are you going to stop beating your wife" kind of
question, which is meaning not answerable, necessarily, by a simple yes or
no. So, I responded in what I thought was the most truthful or least
untruthful manner by saying no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s the guy who`s in charge of setting up the independent
outside group of experts the president said would be in charge of making
sure government surveillance programs maintain the trust of the people and
are not abused. Initial reports indicated that Clapper, himself, would
pick the members of the group. Clapper`s office has since pushed back and
said he`s not actually choosing members.
But according to the White House`s own memo, this independent group
will essentially be answering to Clapper, briefing the president on their
findings and recommendations through the director of national intelligence,
through James Clapper -- the guy who wants credit for lying to congress in
the least untruthful way he could.
So, when you look at the fine print, attach the president`s new
outside independent oversight group, it would seem the White House is using
alternate definitions for the words outside and independent. Nice try,
Next up, we move down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill where more
than 30 House Democrats sent a letter to the Labor Department earlier this
summer opposing a new regulation designed to protect Americans` retirement
accounts. If you`re wondering why congressional Democrats would write a
letter in opposition to an investor protection measure, the folks at
"Mother Jones" might have the answer, because congressional Democrats did
not write the letter. It was according to "Mother Jones`" own examination
of the document`s metadata, drafted by Robert Lewis, a lobbyist works for
Financial Services Institute, an investment industry trade group.
The letter was signed by bunch of congressional Democrats but
originated with a financial industry lobbyist. Nice try, guys. Nice try.
Next up, to the Justice Department, where just last fall a big
mortgage fraud initiative was being touted as a major success. Attorney
General Eric Holder, himself, convened a press conference to roll out the
very impressive results of this mortgage fraud crackdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Over the past 12 months, it has
enabled the Justice Department and its partners to file 285 federal
criminal indictments and informations against 530 defendants who are
allegedly victimizing more than 73,000 American homeowners and inflicting
losses in excess of $1 billion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Five hundred and thirty defendants, $1 billion -- hose numbers
sound incredible. Almost too incredible if you ask some seasoned
reporters. Like the folks at "Bloomberg" who reported at the time that the
number of defendants seemed inflated, as it included one case filed two
years before President Obama was elected.
The Justice Department subsequently declined to provide "Bloomberg"
with a complete list of all those hundreds of indictments on $1 billion in
And, finally, just in the last few days, late on Friday, the Justice
Department, to its credit, came out and admitted that the numbers Eric
Holder cited last year were just wrong. Like really quite wrong. For
example, remember how Eric Holder said the program had resulted in
indictments and information against 530 defendants?
Well, that was really 107 defendants. Or that it involved 73,000
homeowners. That was revised down to just over 17,000. And that $1
billion figure, that was really just $95 million. And, OK, it`s a little
embarrass to have gotten those numbers so wrong, but here`s where the
Justice Department crosses the line into full nice try guys territory.
They apparently went back to the transcript posted online from Eric
Holder`s speech to swap in the newly revised numbers thereby rewriting
history as if Eric Holder had gotten the numbers right the first time and
said things that he most assuredly did not say. Of course, as you saw,
they did not manage to go back in time and make Eric Holder actually say
what the transcript now purports that he said.
That speech is, of course, on tape. It`s such an embarrassingly
awkward nice try guys move, that you have to feel sorry for them, which is
why we`re going to go ahead and give the Justice Department a hand at
covering their tracks on this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Over the past 12 months, it`s enabled the Justice Department
and its --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of.
HOLDER: -- federal criminal indictments and information against --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hundred and seven.
HOLDER: -- defendants who are allegedly victimizing more than --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventeen thousand.
HOLDER: -- American homeowners. And inflicting losses in excess of -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ninety-five million dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Nice try, guys, and you`re welcome.
Coming up, why people want college admissions to be a true meritocracy
strictly based on test scores, unless they think white people don`t do well
on those tests. New insight on white people problems, next.
HAYES: A jaw-dropping new study shows that white people don`t like
affirmative action unless they think it`s going to benefit them. And this
is very real practical implications because every year that goes by, the
job market increasingly requires college degrees. Parents grow more
anxious about their kids getting into college. And admissions to these
colleges grow more and more competitive.
So along comes this great experiment, a study by Frank Sampson, a
professor of sociology at the University of Miami. The study asked 599
white Californians how they felt about the importance of grade point
average in the University of California admission system. Grade point
average was generally rated as extremely important.
But half of the people in the study were randomly selected to receive
this information. "Under current admissions procedures in the University
of California system, Asians make up almost 40 percent of the student body
or two out of every five students. While they are only 12 percent of the
Lo and behold, that group of white people who got that information
gave grade point average less importance because suddenly they, white
people, were the ones being threatened by the so-called meritocracy. Part
of Professor Sampson`s conclusion, "This finding weakens the argument that
white commitment to meritocracy is purely based on principle."
Exactly. It shows just how malleable, how slippery, our notions of
merit are in the context of higher education and opportunity in America in
general. Our official ideology, of course, here in the United States is
level playing field. But we want a level playing field that will select
the people we think should be winning the race.
Joining me now is Randall Kennedy, professor of law at Harvard
University. Author of the book, "For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative
Action and the Law", which comes out next month.
Professor Kennedy, did the results of this study surprise you?
RANDALL KENNEDY, LAW PROF. HARVARD UNIV.: No, it didn`t surprise me.
After all, people will often favor the policy that is good for them and
their group. So, it shouldn`t be any surprise that there would be some
white people who would downgrade, let`s say, grade point average or test
scores if those they see of merit aren`t working in their favor.
HAYES: We often think of the debate over affirmative action in a kind
of battle over a zero sum fixed pie of educational resources, as involving
white people and black people, or white people and black and brown people.
One of the things I thought was interesting about this study was it looked,
at this group that doesn`t get talked about in the context of affirmative
debate which is Asian-American students who perform quite well as a group
on standardized testing, and grade point average and other things like that
and who are in some ways are the victims of the current system that`s been
erected largely by white policymakers.
KENNEDY: That`s true. It`s -- I think we`re going to hear more and
more about Asian-Americans in this struggle in part because they are
becoming increasingly salient at the most elite schools on the West Coast
and on the East Coast. So they haven`t figured in, you know, very much
thus far in the debate, but I think increasingly they will figure in.
Certainly that`s the case in California.
HAYES: What`s the takeaway here? I mean, we obviously, we have a
national myth about meritocracy. We have this idea that there`s some sort
of fixed metrics we can use to select the best people who are most
deserving of these educational resources.
What is wrong with that? What`s the way that we move past that idea
to something that`s a little more comprehensive and it`s going to move us
toward a more diverse set of educational institutions?
KENNEDY: I think that we need to take a more realistic view of what
affirmative action has meant over the past half century, and we need to
talk about all of the various arguments that have, that can be mobilized in
favor of affirmative action.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, in large part because of the Supreme
Court, we`ve talked almost solely in terms of higher education about the
so-called diversity rationale for affirmative action. The idea that people
from different backgrounds bring something to the table and thereby enrich
these institutions for everyone and that`s an important rationale. But
there are other rationales for affirmative action that need to be put out
there as well.
It`s still the case, it seems to me, that a good argument can be made
for affirmative action for compensatory justice, helping those who have for
a long time been pushed to the margins, kept down in American life or the
argument of -- you know, just straight-out desegregation of institutions,
which for a long time practiced segregation.
Or the idea of legitimation, the idea of making it very plain to
everyone that all groups, all people in American society, are welcome at
elite institutions. So, I think all of these arguments need to be out
there, put on the table and debated.
HAYES: Professor Kennedy from Harvard University. Thank you much. I
look forward to reading your book.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
HAYES: We`ll be right back with #Click3.
HAYES: We have this interview coming up. I`m extremely excited
about. The woman who the T.V. show "Orange Is The New Black" is based on
will be here. You don`t want to miss that.
But, first I want to share the three awesomest things on the internet
today. And, we begin with a #Click3 clarification. Last night we brought
you this video of this Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg driving
around Oslo in a taxicab supposedly picking up unsuspecting passengers and
chatting about his policies.
What we learned today those passengers were maybe not so unsuspecting.
In fact, we have say they were downright suspecting. The Norwegian
newspaper reporting, and the labor party eventually confirmed, that at
least some of those passengers were paid actors cast as ordinary citizens
for what would become a campaign video for Stoltenberg. This, of course,
is a shocking breach of the public trust. You can`t trust a political
campaign ad to be authentic, what on earth is left?
Second awesomest thing on the internet today, don`t let the powder
wigs fool you. Just how old were some of the key participants in the
American Revolution? As blogger Todd Endrick and many of the founding
fathers were, in fact under 40. He has listed a number of ages at the time
on July 4, 1776.
Take for instance, Thomas Jefferson, who at 33, is a year younger than
I am. James Madison, was only at the quarter century mark, back then he
was laying down the groundwork for the greatest democracy in the world.
Today, perhaps, he has settled for some skinny jeans and a cameo
appearance on girls. At 21, Alexander Hamilton would have been able to
drink Sam Adams, not the beer, not the guy, who is downright ancient by the
way at 53. And, at the age 18, James Monroe was barely illegal. I can`t
believe we made that joke.
And, the third awesomest thing on the internet today takes us to
Beijing, China, where a man has built a mountain over his living room.
This is the 26-floor penthouse of Dr. Zhang Biqing, who reportedly spent
six years and over $130,000 building a mountain on top of his house.
The only problem is the good doctor never asked anyone for permission
to do that. Monday, the district government issued a compulsory demolition
order. Now, the full thing has to be torn down. Neighbors have been
complaining for years about the sound of the construction, about the
doctor`s workers hogging the service elevator. Tenants claim the
building`s structural integrity has been compromised. Dr. Biqing is
responding in an interview translated by the BBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ZHANG BIQING, MAN WHO BUILT MOUNTAIN OVER HIS LIVING ROOM: It is
not like the whole building is illegal. The fake mountain that you can see
from pictures is actually made of plastic materials. Materials from resin,
but not real rocks. The purpose of building it in the first place was to
protect our roof from sunshine. The house is all glass. So, it gets very
cold in winter and very hot in summer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes, instead of buying curtains and a fan, the doctor builds a
miniature golf course over his home. By the way, if you are in the market,
doctor, I know a motivated seller looking to unload his volcano near the
ocean. You can find all the links for tonight`s #Click3 on our website,
allinwithchris.com. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR SCHILLING, AS PIPER CHAPMAN IN "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK":
Witness states Piper Chapman carried drug money. Piper Chapman was part of
JASON BIGGS, AS LARRY BLOOM IN "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: Were you?
SCHILLING: I was 22. I thought that I was in love. I was in love.
And, it was all crazy. And, then it got scary. And, I ran away, and I
became the nice blond lady that I was supposed to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was a clip from the new Netflix series "Orange Is The New
Black" bases on the real life ordeal of Piper Kerman like her T.V.
character, Piper Chapman, Piper Kerman was to her friends and family a nice
She is a Smith graduate. She had a career, a boyfriend who loved her.
She had a life. But, for years Piper Kerman was keeping a secret. At, 24
she carried money for a West African drug lord. How did that happen?
At the time, Kerman was in a romantic relationship with a woman
involved in an international drug smuggling ring. Kerman got caught up in
the lifestyle, retrieving money wires, carrying thousands of dollars in
cash across borders.
After months, Kerman cut ties with her criminal life and began living
what she has called a normal one. That is until the feds showed up to her
apartment years later informing her she had been indicted in federal court
on charges of drug smuggling and money laundering.
That was just the beginning of a year`s long odyssey through the
American criminal justice system. She pled guilty to her crime and
eventually served 15 months in a federal penitentiary. Kerman`s time in
prison is the subject of a memoir and new T.V. Series "Orange is The New
Black," which chronicles the fish out of water experience of someone whose
socioeconomic background led them to believe that prison is the last place
they would ever find themselves, that prison is for other people, bad
people. Yes, here is Piper, quote, "Nice blond lady dumped right in the
middle of it."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LADY WARDEN, "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK": What size are you?
PIPER CHAPMAN, "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK": 9 1/2, 10. These are kind
of like Toms.
LADY WARDEN: Who`s Tom?
CHAPMAN: Toms are shoes. When you buy a pair at the company gives
another to a child in need. They are great and they come in lots of
LADY WARDEN: How nice. Strip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The series is incredible. And, I love it, which is why I am
so, so excited Piper Kerman is here. Her memoir is called "Orange Is The
New Black: My Year In Women`s Prison." It`s really fantastic to have you.
PIPER KERMAN, A WOMAN WHO SPENT 15 MONTHS IN A FEDERAL PENITENTIARY:
Thanks for inviting me.
HAYES: I think -- I first came across your story in a monologue you
did at a mall, which is a story-telling venue, you were telling about your
experience, and have started -- most of my way through the series --
HAYES: -- love it. I have the thought numerous times in every
episode, how did this series get made? It is just so off the charts of
what, if you were going into a pitch meeting with a television executive, I
could imagine anyone green lighting. How did it get made?
KERMAN: The book came out in 2010. I was really lucky and fortunate
that it received, you know, good notices, and the book came to the
attention of Gingi Cohan, who is the woman who created the show "Weeds,"
which ran for eight seasons.
And, it fascinated people with the travails of Nancy Babon. And -- so
Gingi read the book and Gingi loved the book, and so I was actually out in
Los Angeles during my book tour, you know, right after the book came out.
We sat down. We talked.
You know, and I was really, really struck by her insatiable curiosity
about everything about life in a prison, above and beyond the contents of
the book. And, so, I had a really high degree of confidence that she was
going to do something wonderful with it.
HAYES: You must have, right? Because this is your story. This
happened to you. This is the life you live and you wrote about it. And, I
wonder, watching the show, if there are moments where you feel like you`re
no longer the custodian of your own story because this is on television and
there are some small changes and the last name has been changed and things
have to be fictionalized in certain ways. Is it a strange experience to
watch your life be on screen?
KERMAN: It`s very surreal to watch the series. The series is an
adaptation, and it, in fact, makes very dramatic departures from the facts
that are contained in the book. So, Piper Chapman`s story line is very,
very different than my own. And, there are characters who are new, you
know, brand new characters, the Gingi and the writers have dreamed up.
And, that`s all fantastic because I believe that what people likes the
most about the book, and what people really responded to in the book, was
the intersection of my own life and my experience with all these other
women that I met.
Hundreds and hundreds of women and some of them are dealt within a lot
of detail in the book. And, that is the most important takeaway from the
book. And, what the show does is take that intersection and just expand
upon it. So, what they are able to do in the television show is to tell
other women`s stories in incredible detail. And, that is really, I think,
very important, and the best thing about the show.
HAYES: What I think is remarkable about it, I`ve done some -- as a
reporter, I have interfaced reporting in a criminal justice system.
HAYES: And, one of the things, I think, the show does incredibly
well, is at one level you do not want to romanticize or minimize the
terribleness of being in prison. It is bad. It`s really bad.
KERMAN: It is really bad.
HAYES: At the same time, it`s not a pen with animals. Its human
beings who are in a society and a culture and are having interactions and
moments of kindness.
HAYES: And, somehow the show is managing to walk this very, very fine
line of showing that it`s not fun, but it`s also human -- it`s humans.
It`s people. It`s people interacting with other people at the end of the
KERMAN: Yes. I mean, what I wanted to do in the book was to show in
a different and a much more multifaceted way, who`s in prison, who`s
really in prison, and we don`t necessarily think of women, first and
foremost, when we think about the criminal justice system.
And, why are they in prison? What are the pathways? What are the
offenses that land them there? Often nonviolent crimes. And, you know,
what are the back stories? And, what really happens to them. What are the
conditions of confinement? What is it like to live every day in a prison?
I really hoped that people who read my book would walk away with some
sense of what would it be like for me if I was in prison? And, I think
that the show just sucks you in, it allows viewers to imagine themselves
walking in those shoes.
HAYES: There is an episode where a tool goes missing from a work
space that you have been assigned to, and there is a huge security freak-
out among the officials in the prison, and I had a knot in my stomach for
the entire episode.
KERMAN: Well, that really happened. You know, that was a very, very
scary day for me, and, you know, the future of the screw driver in the
reality of the book is very different than what happens with the
screwdriver in the show.
But, that day that I inadvertently stole a screwdriver was a really
scary day for me, a terrifying day because it is a dangerous weapon and
there are incredible consequences and I was, like, "What am I going to do
with this thing?"
HAYES: Are you still in touch with people that you served time with?
KERMAN: I am in touch with people. I -- folks sometimes ask if there
was anything about prison that I liked. And, the only thing to like about
prison is the friendships that you, perhaps, might forge there. And, so I
really treasure the friendships that I made with some of the women who I
did time with, and I am still in touch with and still friends with some of
HAYES: Have you talked to them about this series? I mean --
KERMAN: I have talked to some of them. Some of them have been in
touch. They`ve been watching. And, you know, the feedback I have gotten
is positive from those women and also along the lines of, "Wow, I`m having
a flashback." So, I haven`t heard from every single woman, who is depicted
in the book. The changes of the show are very substantial in terms of, you
know, the characters.
KERMAN: Exactly! So -- But, the reaction has been enthusiastic.
HAYES: I want you to stick around if you will. When we come back, a
former state senator sent to Federal prison for a campaign finance
violation will be here to tell us about his experiences in prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We talked earlier in the show about the justice department`s
strange cut and paste job on the transcript from the Eric Holder`s speech
given last fall. It turned out to have some totally bogus numbers in
Since speech, itself, no longer matched the transcript, we did the DOJ
a favor and redubbed the numbers. The justice department has now added a
note to the revised transcript disclosing that it was, in fact revised. As
far as we can tell, the revision note appeared sometime this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PIPER CHAPMAN, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: But, I do know, I was
somebody before I came in here. I was somebody with a life that I chose
for myself. And, now, now it`s just about getting through the day without
crying, and I`m scared. I`m still scared. I`m scared that I`m not myself
in here, and I`m scared that I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was a scene from "Orange Is The New Black." we`re back
with Piper Kerman, whose memoir is the inspiration for the hit Netflix
series. Also joining me at the table is Jeff Smith, former Missouri State
senator who went to federal prison for campaign violations.
He is now an assistant professor at a new school. And, Jeff, I wanted
to have you here. You and I spoke before. I have read about your prison
experience, and you said you had read the memoir when you got to federal
JEFF SMITH, FORMER MISSOURI STATE SENATOR: Yes. I actually had it
sent to me while I was locked up, and so, you know, it was really great to
be able to read about someone who had a little bit of a similar experience.
HAYES: In terms of similar experience, so there`s something strange
here, right? -- Which is, I have these two relatively well educated white
people on the show right now, we`re talking about prison.
At some level, you do not want to give a misimpression about who is
incarcerated in the massive incarceral state that is America, which
disproportionately puts behind bars people of color, particularly men of
color and people without much in the way of means.
But, at the same time, one of the things that comes through in the
show, and in the Memoir, is that actually it`s more diverse than you would
think, right? It is like you can`t -- people shouldn`t think that that
world of prison has nothing to do with them.
KERMAN: Absolutely not. I mean, there is no question that who is
policed and who is prosecuted and who is sentenced and how they`re
sentenced is very, very different for some Americans than for other
Americans. And, the racial disparity and the class disparity is
indefensible in terms of whether equal justice is really happening in our
courtrooms and in the streets as well.
But, what you find in prison is people from every walk of life, every
race, color, creed, religion, and you are living together in a very, very
close quarters and have to make your own peace and you have to navigate and
negotiate how everyone`s going to get along.
HAYES: Do you find that, Jeff?
SMITH: Yes. I mean, frankly, race is a huge problem in society and
it is a problem in federal prison as well. Prison is very segregated. It
is sort of like Sunday morning they talk about in the United States. This
is the most segregated time in America. Well, prison is probably more
segregated than that.
I actually was the only -- part of the only interracial, like, cell
group. So, I had a black cellie. When I first came in, consequently, the
only people I knew for my first week were black, and I sat down at a lunch
table with that group and I was told in no uncertain terms by a white man
afterwards, you need to stop sitting there and sit with your own kind. So,
I had several, you know, very tense experiences in prison, but many of them
involved around race.
HAYES: There are two Americas, I think. There is an America that
thinks that it has nothing to do with the criminal justice system that this
thing just churns in the background. It never affects their life. Don`t
know anyone who`s been to prison. Have never gotten on a bus to go three
hours, to go visit their loved one there, had never been at a midnight
arraignment down at the criminal court.
SMITH: Don`t know what a parole violation is, have never talked to a
C.O. and then there`s another part of America in which that is life, in and
out of prison. People they know and love in prison, visiting love ones in
prison, interfacing the criminal justice system.
As people that were in one America and went to the other, what do you
come back, what do you want to tell people who are living in the America
that don`t think that criminal justice system has anything to do with them?
KERMAN: I think that first of all, there are communities, which are
generally our most vulnerable communities, which contend with the criminal
justice system in incredibly intense ways every single day. As you
describe, you know, huge swaths of those communities who may by directly
affected, may have been incarcerated themselves, or may have a loved one
who`s in prison or in jail.
What I have found in the course of talking about my own experience,
though, with folks who in theory, you know, don`t touch the criminal
justice system at all is that when you peel things back just a little bit,
people say, "Oh, you know, when my cousin, my brother --
HAYES: That`s a really great point.
KERMAN -- my stepfather, my neighbor`s son. So, the criminal justice
system affects far more Americans than I think everyone realizes or
recognizes. And, there`s, of course, a lot of guilt and shame associated
with being convicted of a crime and going to prison and coming home, trying
to come home successfully.
But, I think that it`s a system, which affects far more lives than
people recognize, and also, you know, has a tremendous literal economic
cost to every single American who pays taxes. So, that`s what I would say.
HAYES: Did it change your politics on this issue?
SMITH: It changed my politics somewhat, absolutely. I mean, I cared
about recidivism issues when I was in the Missouri senate, and in fact, I
used to bring -- try to invite other colleagues with me to go to prisons to
watch theatrical performances. Never in a million years did I imagine that
just a year later, I would be playing drums in the gospel choir performing
for visitors in a federal prison.
So, yes, I mean, you can`t go through something like that and say it
didn`t change your outlook. For me, the thing I want to tell people on the
outside more than anything is just that the people who are locked up really
aren`t that different from you and I.
We probably had a lot more privileges than most of them growing up,
maybe an intact family or the opportunity for a great education, or
financial security. But, at the end of the day, they miss their kids just
like we do. They miss their girlfriend or their wife or their mom or their
friends just like we do. And, they want a chance at a better life when
they get out.
HAYES: Do you think that we are at a point -- there was Eric Holder`s
announcement yesterday about mandatory minimums and some changes to the way
the department of justice would deal with them. Mandatory minimums, the
character of piper Chapman faces a mandatory minimum. I believe you faced
a mandatory minimum.
HAYES: Which is why you pled. What was your reaction to that news
KERMAN: I was very encouraged. I mean, it definitely can have a
substantial impact if all those U.S. attorneys, you know, follow the
directive of the attorney general and start doing, going about their
business differently, that can have a big impact.
The truth of the matter is, there are far more people in state prisons
than in federal prison. Though, you know, there are huge, hundreds of
thousands of people in federal prison. So, we need governors and state
attorneys general to also take steps.
HAYES: Yes. And, we need to see a sea change in the politics, which
I am hopeful is happening, though I`m not quite sure. Piper Kerman, the
inspiration for the Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black" and former
Missouri state senator, Jeff Smith. Thank you both very much. It is
really a pleasure.
KERMAN: Thank you.
SMITH: Thank you.
HAYES: That is "All In" for this evening. "The Rachel Maddow Show"
starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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