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Beyond Bars Summit provides a new voice on mass incarceration in West Virginia

Man on left and woman on right, posed

(Left) Dwayne Betts, author of Felon, (Right) Piper Kerman, author of the memoir turned Netflix original series Orange is the New Black.

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Popular and familiar voices who have endured the prison system will provide a fresh perspective and give a voice to the voiceless for those still incarcerated as part of West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media Beyond Bars Summit. Piper Kerman, author of the memoir turned Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, and Dwayne Betts, author of Felon, with a series of 10 breakout sessions led by West Virginia experts on Thursday (Nov. 12). 

Quotes and Comments:

VIDEO: Piper Kerman  

We know that racial disparity is profound in this country. People of color, Black women, Indigenous women and Latinx women are much more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than white women. When they do end up in the system, they are set up to be more harshly punished. There are a number of women in the federal system I have known that have been placed in the system due to something similar to my offense that have not been sentenced to something short like mine, but rather a life sentence or 20-25 years sentence due to their skin color.” — Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black 

VIDEO: Dwayne Betts 

“One of the reasons why I appreciate the opportunity to speak about this at West Virginia is that for a long time and for a lot of people, incarceration is a Black issue or an urban issue, but it is an American issue. It is an issue of poverty, wealth, addiction and an ability to temper your anger. This is an opportunity to highlight the commonalities we all share.” —Dwayne Betts, author of Felon

Participants will have the opportunity to participate in one of the following breakout sessions to further discuss issues surrounding women’s incarceration:

  • A Conversation with Reginald Dwayne Betts
  • Criminal Justice Reform in West Virginia
  • Reentry: Building Bridges to a Better Community
  • Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline
  • Employment Information for Justice Involved Individuals
  • Restorative Justice: From Harm to Healing, A Journey Towards Wholeness
  • Criminal Injustice: Confronting Racial Disparities in the Criminal Legal System
  • Changing the Paradigm: Reframing the Way We Respond to Crises in Our Communities
  • Seeking Solutions Through Alternatives to Incarceration
  • Outbreak: Covid-19 and Incarceration

Kerman and Betts are available for a 1 p.m. Q&A on Nov. 12.  Media interested in attending should RSVP by email to


See a media kit with downloadable photos, videos and additional resources

Read about the Women Beyond Bars interactive installation

Women Beyond Bars: Additional Resources

See additional information about the West Virginia system

Register for the event

Questions regarding the summit can be directed to summit organizers:

Target Audience:

  • Policy makers
  • Elected leaders
  • Attorneys/public defenders
  • Law enforcement
  • Judges
  • Justice reform advocates
  • People who provide services to justice-involved individuals and/or families of justice-involved individuals
  • Formerly incarcerated individuals
  • Issue-oriented people and organizations



CONTACT: Erica Lindsay
Director of Marketing and Communications
Reed College of Media

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