We often imagine prisoners in black and white striped clothing, hands cuffed over their stomach as they slowly walk with their head down. In reality, black and white striped clothing was never the norm for prison clothing across the world, although it was widely used in the 1940’s and 1950’s in Western and European countries as clothing for people who were confined in prisons and war camps. For example, prisoners during the Holocaust were notorious for being clothed in vertical black and white stripes. Since then, black and white striped prison clothing has carried the stigma and status of suffering.
In this day and age, prisoners across the world no longer wear black and white striped clothing for several reasons:
- Humane reasons
- Practical reasons
- Ethical reasons
Currently, even the United States is changing the way it clothes its prisoners, because it is considered inhumane by some to label and signify prisoners’ status through black and white striped clothing. Many countries also find it more practical for prisoners to wear brighter, easy-to-spot clothing. This helps them stand out in a crowd. In addition, some countries want to punish prisoners by dressing them in non-traditional clothing.
Although there is some debate regarding the use of prison uniforms, they continue to persist as a part of prison culture. Here are six surprising colors that prisoners across the world wear.
Canary, or Highlighter, Yellow
In the United States, specifically Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California, male prisoners are classified by the color of their prison uniform, which includes yellow. The following show the colors for prison uniforms that are used by some United States prison systems, starting with the highest-security color and ending with the lowest security color:
- Bright Orange
- Dark Green
- Plain Gray
- Bright Red
- Canary Yellow
Another advantage to this system is that it allows prison guards to spot and label a prisoner at a glance based on the color of their clothing.
In Indonesia, special prisoners such as government officials are forced to wear embarrassing clothing for their prison uniform. The color of choice is usually hot pink or bright orange. These special prison uniforms are not only brightly colored, but they also include the following:
- The name of the prisoner
- The case number of the prisoner
- “Detainee of the Corruption Eradication Agency”
In Guantanamo Bay, male prisoners wear bright orange scrubs for their prison uniforms. They also wear masks and are kept handcuffed at almost all times.
Although most prison uniforms these days are one-piece jumpers, many of them are also two-piece pants and jacket. Scrubs, however, are almost unique to Guantanamo Bay.
In South Africa, male prisoners wear standard-issued, dark green clothing for their prison uniform. The clothing is usually threadbare and provides little to no protection from extreme hot or cold weather.
In West Africa, specifically Nigeria, male prisoners wear navy blue clothing for their prison uniform. Even government officials who fall from their high positions are forced to wear this clothing, although some of them, like Bode George, have protested against it.
In England and Wales, male prisoners wear plain gray from head to toe for their prison uniform.
As you can see, male prison clothing has been the subject of much interest and debate. Female prison clothing, however, does not have the same rules and regulations associated with it. Regardless, prison clothing is not something that anyone, even prisoners, would want to wear.
Blair Carroll specializes in criminal defense law at Carroll Troberman Criminal Defense, his law firm in Austin, Texas. Carroll has also helped many Texans get out of jail and back into their own clothes and homes.
Photo Credit: sigsegv (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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