When people ask about my prison experience, one of the most common questions I get is about attire. People are always interested in what prisoners are allowed to wear.
When we see prison inmates on TV and in movies, we usually see them in orange jumpsuits or khaki two-pieces. This is actually pretty accurate, since most prison-issued clothing is in these two colors. However, some facilities offer grey, green or navy blue clothing. Regardless of color, prison-issued clothing is always a jumpsuit or two-piece “scrubs.”
But prisoners don’t have to wear prison uniforms all the time. Every prison commissary sells casual clothing. If inmates have the money to do so, they can order these items to help make them more comfortable when hanging out in their cells or going to the casino.
Every prison has its own rules when it comes to dress code. Which leads to today’s topic, Chillicothe Correctional Center inmate Misty Vance will answer: Can you wear jeans in prison?
In this blog post, Mistie will discuss the following topics:
- For most prisoners, wearing jeans is a thing of the past
- In prison, obedience is essential
- Prison cafeteria offers clothing for inmates to buy
- Prisoners can order items from external vendors
- The prison distributes certain items to each prisoner
- Prisoner needs money from family to buy clothes
For most prisoners, wearing jeans is a thing of the past
I can’t speak for every prison, as I’ve only served time in two prisons – the one I’ve been in for 10 years and the one I just transferred to a month ago. But unless you’ve been skinny for twenty years or so, you don’t wear jeans at Missouri women’s institutions.
In the nearly 11 years I’ve been incarcerated, I’ve seen two inmates with a pair of jeans, both worn out for over 30 years, start spending their time in a prison that no longer exists.
From the stories I’ve heard them tell, prisons were very different back then than they are today, with far more benefits for offenders. Families can bring items to the prison for their loved ones, criminals can bring friends along for a visit, and prisoners can order from virtually any outside vendor. A lot has changed since then, and criminals have extremely limited access to unsold items inside the prison.
In prison, obedience is essential
Prison is a place that emphasizes conformity and allows only a certain degree of ingenuity. We all wore the same uniform, khaki scrub tops and elasticated khakis. Definitely not the fashion statement of the year!
Uniforms are to be worn at all workplaces, medical appointments, cafeterias, premises, cafeterias, and any other appointment or official areas. Personal attire may be worn at the entertainment facility or housing unit and must be ordered from the offender’s mess hall.
Unfortunately, once an item is ordered, offenders have to wait for it to arrive, which can take anywhere from two to four months. We often joke that it is necessary to buy winter clothes in the summer and vice versa to make sure you wear them in time.
Prison cafeteria offers clothing for inmates to buy
Clothing provided in the Convict Mess Hall includes:
- Track Pants and Sweatshirts
- wool trousers and jackets
- khaki jacket
- casual pants
- cotton shorts
- Thermal Tops and Bottoms
- ankle socks or stockings
All items are light or dark gray and much more expensive than what you would pay for the same items on the street. For example, a sweatshirt you can buy for $10 at Walmart costs $20 here.
Prisoners can order items from external suppliers
The only items we could buy from vendors were bras, crafts, books or CDs. Approved suppliers are few and only allow us to place orders three months a year.
Violators are issued a green check and mailed to the supplier along with an order specifying the products to be purchased. The offender then has to wait two to six weeks before the item is shipped to the prison’s title room, where it can be picked up after processing. The only items that family and friends are allowed to buy and send to criminals are books, and they must be shipped directly from the manufacturer.
The prison distributes certain items to each prisoner
After entering the prison, you will automatically get certain items. In the prison where I currently live, these items include four khaki uniforms, two green T-shirts, three pairs of socks and underwear, two towels, two towels, three blankets, two sheets, a pillowcase and pillow, two Bra, an orange stocking hat, state coat, a pair of shower shoes, and state boots. All other items must be purchased by the offender.
Prisoner needs money from family to buy clothes
Most of the items listed above will not be available for purchase by offenders with outstanding balances upon admission. The monthly stipend for indebted criminals is five dollars a month, which is usually used to buy sanitary supplies.
The state provides a monthly stipend of $7.50 for criminals who do not owe money without a high school diploma or GED, and $8.50 per month for criminals who do not owe money with a diploma or GED. Some inmates can earn $20 or $30 a month while working at the prison, but most of the money spent on clothes and other canteen supplies is money sent to inmates by friends and family outside the prison.
If I had my way, we could wear jeans in prison – and anything else we wanted! I believe originality is the best expression of a person’s true identity, without which we lose a part. Many of us enter prison with no idea who we are. We are products of our circumstances, extensions of others, or may be forced to conform to an image that is the opposite of who we really are inside.
In my case, I was never allowed to make decisions for myself, so I fought back and ended up making all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons. We all have to find our way in our own time and finding ourselves freely in an atmosphere of love and support is the most important thing.
Personally I think this is part of the reason offenders released from incarceration recidivate at such a high rate. They are forced to follow the rules instead of understanding why what we are being asked to do is important. There is no free speech without punishment, and people come out of prison still not knowing who they are or why making the right decisions is so important.
If you have an incarcerated friend or relative, accompany them in a way that allows them to feel comfortable expressing who they really are without fear of rejection or punishment. It definitely makes life easier if you can provide a little money on the books every now and then.
When it’s time for them to go out, be sure to dress them in something stylish because I promise you, we’re all tired of wearing khakis.
Did you know American prisons allow inmates to wear jeans? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Essay from Mistie Vance, inmate at Chillicothe Correctional Center