A sheriff in Michigan wants inmates in his county jail to start wearing black-and-white striped prison uniforms because he thinks orange jumpsuits have become too trendy thanks to the Netflix hit drama “Orange is the New Black.”
Sheriff William Federspiel of Saginaw County says the popular Netflix show has made it “cool” to wear orange jumpsuits in public, and he fears that fashion trend is making his prisoners too hip. His solution? Change the prison wardrobe back to the old-fashioned black and white jumpsuits.
"I have to do something to redefine [cultural] boundaries, because they've been blurred far too often," Federspiel said. "It's a concern because we do have our inmates out sometimes doing work in the public, and I don't want anyone to confuse them or have them walk away.”
The sheriff says he’s even seen civilians around town with orange shirts that read "Property of Saginaw County Jail” written on the back.
Black-and-white stripes, on the other hand, clearly signifies “jail inmate,” he says; and “I don't see people out there wanting to wear black-and-white stripes."
According to a Slate report, black-and-white stripes were common in the 19th century, but prisons started abandoning the design in the early 20th century because of its association with chain gangs.
Prison apparel is mostly decided on a local level, leaving a variety of options available for sheriffs and other officials to choose from. Male prisoners in California, for example, are dressed in denim jeans, blue chambray shirts, and denim jackets. A county in Oklahoma even started issuing prisoners hot pink jumpsuits in 2010.
Unsurprisingly, the hot pink look wasn’t too popular; Federspiel hopes black-and-white stripes will be equally unpopular.
"[Inmates] don't like it. They've been very verbal," Federspiel said of his new wardrobe pick. "A lot of them have said, 'We don't like wearing black-and-white stripes.' And my response is, 'Too bad. Don't come to jail.'”
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.