TV Show Makes Orange Jumpsuits Too Trendy for Jail

Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014 03:43 PM

By John Blosser

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If "Orange Is The New Black," then black and white stripes are the latest retro fashion thing in a Michigan jail, because the hit Netflix TV show has made orange jailhouse jumpsuits just too trendy to wear behind bars.

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports inmates at the Saginaw County Jail are being togged out in the new suits, which feature broad black and white stripes, and say nothing more fashionable than, "I'm in jail." 

Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel noticed that non-inmates around town were sporting the classic orange jumpsuits worn by prisoners on the show and in his jail because they looked "cool" and decided it was time to make a change.

"We decided that the black and white stripes would be the best way to go because it signifies 'jail inmate,' and I don't see people out there wanting to wear black-and-white stripes," he said to The Saginaw News. 

The new uniforms, reminiscent of old-time Southern chain gangs, will be worn by both male and female prisoners once the changeover is completed by the end of the year, Federspiel told USA Today. Female inmates currently wear burgundy uniforms, but the switchover to unisex uniforms will save the county $800, he said, with uniforms costing $11.73 apiece, the same as orange, and lasting about three years. 

The jail houses 513 inmates. 

Not all the inmates are happy about it. "They think it makes them look like criminals," he told USA Today.

"Some people think it's cool to look like an inmate of the Saginaw County Jail with wearing all-orange jumpsuits out at the mall or in public," Federspiel says, referring to the Netflix drama.

"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," he told Mlive.com. 

It's not a completely new idea — Maricopa County Az., Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been making inmates in his jail and chain gangs wear black and white striped uniforms for years, and pink underwear as well. 

As for inmate unhappiness, Federspiel told Mlive.com, "They don't like it. They've been very verbal. And my response is, 'Too bad. Don't come to jail.' If you don't like the food, don't come back. If you don't like the clothes that I give you, don't come back. I didn't ask you to come wear this uniform.

"When the lines get blurred between the culture outside the jail and the culture within the jail," he says, "I have to do something to redefine those boundaries, because they've been blurred far too often in public culture."

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