When you watch a TV or movie that features a prison scene, most of the time the inmates are wearing orange jumpsuits.There’s even a popular Netflix show about Orange Is the New Black that references this in the title orange is the new black.
In the pilot episode, the main character, Piper (played by Taylor Schilling), is told when she receives her orange jumpsuit that, as a novice, she must wear that color. Once she’s moved into the general population, she’ll end up with khakis.
In the prison I was sent to, this was not the case. When I first arrived, I was immediately put on reception and orientation (or, as we call it, “R&O”) and immediately issued khakis. We weren’t put in the same place with different colors for newbies and pops. In contrast, people in R&O are completely isolated from the rest of the prison population, and people in R&O are not allowed to communicate with people in gen pop at all.
When it comes to the world of corrections, absolutely nothing is universal. No two prisons operate in the same way, which often makes it difficult to answer questions about life within prison walls.
When it comes to prison attire, not everything is created equal. Depending on the facility, you can wear everything from orange to gray to green to khaki. But what about your own clothes? Can you leave the clothes you wear in prison and wear them inside?
Which leads to today’s blog post: Can You Wear Your Own Clothes in Prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Can I wear my own clothes in prison?
- What do prisoners usually wear in prison?
- What is a dress box?
Can I wear my own clothes in prison?
I know some countries around the world do allow prison inmates to wear their own clothes, but the US is not one of them. I would like to point out the difference between jail and jail. In the county jail, you do wear your own clothes when you’re in the cell, and most jails won’t let you wear a jumpsuit until you’re in a regular jail.
I’m sure there are some prisons in the US that allow you to wear your own clothes for the entire duration of your stay. When it comes to prisons, that’s not the case.
Allowing prisoners to wear prison uniforms or anything other than the clothes you can buy from the mess hall is considered a huge security risk. If the prisoner is not wearing something that distinguishes them as a prisoner, it will be considered an escape attempt.
So no, prisoners in the US are not allowed to wear their own clothes inside the prison.
For prisoners who turned themselves in rather than being transferred out of the prison, any personal clothing was boxed and placed on their personal property. The clothes are returned to you when you are released.
What do prisoners usually wear in prison?
In my experience, all inmates are issued three sets of khakis upon arrival at the facility. For those working in food service, they were issued three additional sets due to messy work conditions and limited access to laundry facilities.
The minute you walk out of the room, you have to wear khakis. However, there is one exception. We are allowed to buy heather gray T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, slacks and shorts from the commissary.
We can wear these items in lounge or entertainment. However, if you are going to the cafeteria, hospital, school or work, khakis are a must.
Some prisons issue hunter green uniforms, gray uniforms or blue uniforms. Some prisons still issue bright orange uniforms with the classic black and white stripes. Again, the rules vary from prison to prison, but most require prisoners to wear a uniform during any type of “sport”, meaning they are somewhere in the prison outside their cell.
In the prison I’m in, we also have a form of punishment called “dressing in white”. One of the possible penalties if you receive a violation is room restrictions. This means you cannot go anywhere other than your room except for school, work, medical care or the canteen.
You cannot hang out in the lounge, use the phone, go to entertainment or go to the library. For the convenience of the guards, those subject to room confinement were stripped of all regular clothing (including prison-issued clothing and commissary clothing) and replaced with all-white uniforms. The usual punishment was ten days for nothing.
What is a dress box?
I do want to mention the dress up boxes because they are important. When your release date is approaching, your family can send you a box of clothes within 30 days of your release for you to wear when you get out of prison.
Dress boxes are limited. We are not allowed to wear all black, no camouflage, and no clothing that is too sexy or revealing.
After being locked up for four years wearing nothing but a prison uniform, a gray t-shirt, and sweatpants, I was so excited the day my gown box arrived and I was allowed to try on clothes.
I walked out of the prison in charcoal gray capri pants, a St. Louis Cardinals jumper, and brand new sneakers. I gained so much weight in prison that I didn’t know my size so I had to settle for something stretchy.
This is the best dress I’ve ever worn in my life.
Should prisoners be able to wear their own clothes in prison? Let us know in the comments below.