Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, is sworn in before testifying during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Bureau of Prisons: First-Hand Accounts of Challenges Facing the Federal Prison System" on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.
Bill Clark—AP
August 5, 2015 9:53 AM EDT

Piper Kerman, the author of the book that inspired the hit Netflix show Orange Is the New Black, told a congressional committee Tuesday that the federal prison system should adopt gender-specific policies to better address the challenges women inmates face.

“When I was locked up in Danbury I knew women who were trying to raise their children during brief reunions in the visitors’ room while fending off sexual harassment and struggling with addiction and trying to get a high school education so that when they got out they stood some chance of surviving despite their felony conviction,” she told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mashable reports.

This is not the first time Kerman, who published Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison in 2010, has testified on Capitol Hill. Since serving 13 months out of a 15-month sentence in a Danbury, Ct., federal prison, she has become an advocate for prison reform.

Kerman also told the committee that the federal prison system disproportionately affects women of color.

“One of the things that was so striking to me the very first day that I spent in prison was that so many of the women that I was incarcerated with who I would spend a great deal of time with were serving much harsher sentences than I was,” Kerman said. “In fact, the only conclusion I could draw was that they had been treated much more harshly by the American criminal justice system…in some cases because of the color of their skin.”

You can watch her full testimony below:

[Mashable]

Write to Nolan Feeney at nolan.feeney@time.com.

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