15 April, 2018

What Not to Wear

While they don't allow prisoners to mail order personal clothes anymore, the Missouri Department of Corrections does sell its own "brand" of casual wear through its institutions' canteens. This stuff is as well-made and stylish as prisoner-manufactured clothing sounds, a lot of it making off-brand factory seconds look like Prada, but being the only clothing option available means it sells like crazy. What the state issues us is, astonishingly, even less desirable.

You don't get to buy a wardrobe of Missouri Vocational Enterprises-made shirts, shorts, and sweats, then swagger around the prison in comparative comfort all day, every day, though. Rules dictate (of course they do) where and when "state grays" have to be worn. A lot of prisoners were real clothes horses on the street, and old habits die hard. Living prison-fabulous means enduring more daily outfit changes than a staging of Anna and the King.

Full grays must be worn in Medical, Education, and the library. You can layer this with a personal coat or jacket in the first two, but not the former, where only brown state-issued duck coats are permitted.

Around the housing units, you get to wear whatever you like, at least unless you're headed to the caseworkers' offices, which demand state-gray pants and some kind of shirt — even a tank top or sleeveless T-shirt will do. Unless you're going to, or coming from, a shower stall, or hanging out in your cell (where it seems that anything but full nudity goes), a shirt's necessary at all times. As soon as you go outside, however, bare torsos are permitted. I wish they weren't.

The state-gray pants-only policy also applies to Maintenance and the toilet-paper factory, and to anyone eating breakfast or lunch in a chow hall on weekdays that aren't state holidays. Hats are always verboten, yet any other clothes can be worn to meals the rest of the time. Open-toed sandals must be accompanied by socks, and shirts must have sleeves.

Nothing personal, except for stocking caps, can be worn to visits, even though the white T-shirt, gray pants, and navy blue slip-on deck shoes that you're admitted onto the visiting room floor with are issued on-site. They're provided to you after a strip-search, then returned before you leave the building. But presumably the rules exist for a reason, however stupid.

Got all that? Good. Now, just don't let your pants sag below your waistline at any point and you'll be golden.

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