Khaki Jumpsuits Are the New Black

Washington's prisons may add insult to injury by stopping Bugle Boy, Ralph Lauren, and Levi at the gate.

The economic crisis has prompted just about every government agency to cut costs both big and small. State Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail outlined some of the changes his agency will implement in a January 6 letter to family and friends of offenders. The DOC plans to close one prison, Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women, and may, if Gov. Gregoire’s budget proposals are successful, scale back its supervision of people released from prison. It’s also taking a smaller step, but one that will be felt widely inside the state’s prisons: “In order to save the utility costs associated with unit laundries,” Vail writes, “we plan to eliminate personal clothing for inmates.”

The state’s Deputy Director of Prisons, Dan Pacholke, explains that prisoners are issued khaki uniforms, including pants and work shirts, which they are required to wear as they do their prison jobs or attend various educational and social-service programs. But they can wear their own clothes the rest of the time, whether they’re in their cells or chatting with acquaintances in visiting rooms. They buy their outfits from several DOC vendors such as Eastbay, which advertises its wares in a catalogue distributed to inmates. Jeans, dress shirts, and sneakers are among the items that have been available.

No longer: Pacholke says that the DOC will soon tell inmates they can’t buy new clothes, and then, in perhaps six months time, will prohibit the clothes they already own as well. Pacholke says the savings from not having to launder the clothes will amount to $1 million a year. As an added benefit, he says, it’s saving energy.

Nevertheless, Pacholke concedes, “I don’t expect it to be an overwhelmingly popular change,” noting that inmates say having their own clothes allows them to feel like individuals. Still, he adds, it’s a change that saves money without affecting public safety. But Paul Wright, a former Washington state prisoner and editor of Prison Legal News, asks: “How does regimenting and destroying individuality prepare people to re-enter society?”




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

File photo
Proposed bill aims to trade handcuffs for help when it comes to drug use

Supreme Court decision to strike down drug possesion law leaves oppurtunity to shift paradigm

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
House passes bill to increase financial reporting, transparency by healthcare providers

Bill’s prime sponsor says it will help address healthcare equity and affordability.

File photo
Freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish. File photo
Encouraging numbers for kokanee salmon spawn count

Lake Sammamish kokanee aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, but… Continue reading

In this file photo, Tayshon Cottrell dons his graduation cap and gown, along with a face mask reading: “Wear it! Save America” at Todd Beamer High School’s virtual graduation walk recording on May 20, 2020, in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

File photo
Study shows Washingtonians exceeded ‘heavy drinking’ threshold in 2020

The survey suggests Washingtonians drank more than 17 alcoholic beverages a week on average.

Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19, 2021. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Malden, after a wildfire burned down 80% of the town’s buildings in Eastern Washington. Courtesy photo
DNR commissioner seeks $125 million to fight wildfires

In Washington state last September, some 600,000 acres burned within 72 hours.

Most Read