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Black And White Stripes Are The New Orange

Saginaw Jail

A jail in Michigan is switching prison garb to old-style black and white stripes because prisoners have become enamored of the orange they had been wearing due to the popularity of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black:

SAGINAW, MI — If orange is the new black, as the popular TV show title says, then black-and-white stripes are the new orange at the Saginaw County Jail.

The jail’s all-orange jumpsuits increasingly are viewed as “cool,” Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel says, prompting him to begin purchasing jumpsuits with horizontal black-and-white stripes for use inside the jail instead.

The choice was not arbitrary, the sheriff says.

“It’s because as you see shows on television, like ‘Orange Is The New Black,’ 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.

“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.”

Federspiel says he’s trying to adapt to an apparent culture change.

“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.”

The sheriff says the uniforms, for which his budget included funding, cost $11.73 per jumpsuit. They are the same material and the same cost as the orange ones the county has used for several years, and a jumpsuit lasts for about two to three years of wear, Federspiel says.

During the transition, some inmates continue to wear orange jumpsuits, and jail staff have used the different colors to differentiate inmates housed on different floors. Federspiel says he doesn’t expect to complete the change until the end of the year.

Sheriffs in the past have used other colors, including black and white “many, many moons ago,” Federspiel adds.

“It was time to make a change again,” Federspiel says. “It’s cyclical. And there will come a time in the future when I change back to another color or different attire.”

The new colors serve as “just another aspect for how to provide better security for our deputies,” Federspiel says.

“I don’t want them to not be easy to spot,” he says. “That’s scary. With the amount of people — it’s not all across the country, but it’s here in Saginaw. I see a lot of people wearing all orange, and they think it’s cool. And some people even put ‘Property of the Saginaw County Jail’ on the back of it. I’ve seen that. It’s like, ‘What are you doing? Really?'”

Is a television show really causing people to dress up like inmates in public? Well, I suppose anything is possibly given the vagaries of popular culture.

Incidentally, here in the Northern Virginia I’ve noticed during my time in courthouses over the years that the color of choice among the Sheriffs seems to be a green that seems to lie somewhere between turquoise and olive. So, unless they make a show called “Olive Is The New Black” — or would that be “Olive Is The New Orange?” — they should be safe.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Incidentally, here in the Northern Virginia I’ve noticed during my time in courthouses over the years that the color of choice among the Sheriffs seems to be a green that seems to lie somewhere between turquoise and olive. So, unless they make a show called “Olive Is The New Black” — or would that be “Olive Is The New Orange?” — they should be safe.

    Maybe we can credit Martha Stewart’s incarceration for popularizing orange jumpsuits?

    This seems like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but … whatever.

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  2. Just Me says:

    The jail I worked at while in college used a green slightly darker than the typical green of surgical scrubs.

    Jumpsuits vary but the one thing they all seem to have I common is they seem about 2 sizes too big for anyone wearing them.

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  3. aFloridian says:

    Most jails around here seem to use black and white stripes again now.

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  4. ernieyeball says:

    Is a television show really causing people to dress up like inmates in public?

    Last Halloween I saw more than a few guys wearing Aaron Hernandez Patriot’s jerseys. Every year I see John Dillnger or several Nixons or some other notorious All-American miscreant. Life can be dull. Occasionally people want to think themselves to be real bad asses.
    Or maybe wearing jail duds as an option may be theraputic. Like watching Cops.
    If I ever think I am down on my luck or at the end of my rope an episode of Cops will remind me what a real life schmuck looks like.
    I’m always doing better than those mopes.

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  5. JWH says:

    Maybe dress the crooks in Pokemon costumes?

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