Color-Coded Dress for Prisoners

orangeThe Columbian of Clark County, WA, provides an overview of the county’s prison dress code. Inmates receive color-coded uniforms, including:

  • Orange for “violent or unruly” behavior;
  • Blue for a “low threat,” misdemeanor, or nonviolent felony charge;
  • Green for “suicide” watch and for those charged with murder.

The color-coded uniforms are meant to provide “security, order, and frugality.” They also, of course, provide an easy visual shorthand for guards and other inmates to make quick judgments about “their character, how they’re behaving and what their charge is,” as the former prison chief explains. 

The article makes the observation that these prison uniforms were introduced to reflect the rehabilitation goal of criminal law, and to remove the “stigma of incarceration” associated with the old black-and-white striped uniform.

Skeptics may recall the recent practice of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ, who required some prisoners to wear pink underwear as a form of punishment, discussed along with the constitutional issues around prison dress here.

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