duke
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Joined: Tue Sep 21, 1999 9:52 pm

When Did Convicts Start Wearing Stripes?

Sun Nov 28, 2004 4:10 am

This is a bit of trivia I have wanted to know for a long time. When and where did they first get the idea to put convicts in stripes? Anyone know?

By the way, in Britain there used to exist a different but similarly distinctive pattern for prison garb - arrows all over the clothes. Wonder if they still do that.
 
aa61hvy
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RE: When Did Convicts Start Wearing Stripes?

Sun Nov 28, 2004 4:19 am

I'd like to know about the ball and chain? When did they ditch that idea.
Go big or go home
 
57AZ
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RE: When Did Convicts Start Wearing Stripes?

Sun Nov 28, 2004 8:03 am

I'm not certain as to when and where the striped uniforms for inmates first appeared. They were common in the United States by the 1870s. Most of the changes involving uniforms and restraints were made by the states individually. One example is Florida and its decision to abolish the traditional striped inmate uniform in 1937 in favor of a simpler design. I suspect that the idea came about with the need to readily identify inmates who were leased out as labor under the convict lease systems, beginning in the 1870s. Inmates were most often leased out to railroads and mines, two labor intensive industries.

As for the ball and chain, they were used to confine inmates in enclosed areas such as the stockade or prison yard. They impeded rapid movement of inmates, a major problem when the prisons industrialized. The introduction of widespread prison labor probably was the biggest factor in the decision to eliminate the ball and chain. Why chain the prisoners up when most of them were willing and able to work at prison industry jobs? In fact, for many inmates having a job is effective in managing inmate behavior. Having a job allows them to be out of their cell for up to ten hours a day. That gives them a constructive diversion to pass the time and many behave themselves out of fear of losing that job if they break the institution rules. Nowadays, institutions have special units to house problem inmates and have the ability to restrain inmates using methods that are vast improvements over the ball and chain. Incidentally, when JPATS first took to the air, they wanted to shackle the inmates to their seats. However, the FAA said that was a no-no and they didn't do that.

Getting back to the origin of uniforms, how many out there know the origin of the traditional police uniform? Who came up with the idea, when and why was the color blue selected?
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
57AZ
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Police Uniforms

Mon Nov 29, 2004 5:30 am

The traditional police uniform was created by Briton Sir Robert Peel. He was responsible for the formation of the forerunner of the present day Metropolitan Police of London. He recognized the need for a well trained, uniformed police force and set about to make that happen. When selecting a uniform, it was decided that the color and design should be something distinctly different from the military uniforms for a number of reasons. Red, Green and White were all military colors, so Sir Robert chose Blue for the uniforms of the new police force. His reforms were well accepted by the public at large and the officers of the Metropolitan Police were often referred to on the streets as "Peelers" or "Bobbies" (after Sir Robert Peel).
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
ConcordeBoy
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RE: When Did Convicts Start Wearing Stripes?

Mon Nov 29, 2004 5:33 am

I'm curious as to when they STOPPED.... hardly ever see that here anymore, now it's just [neon] orange.
Faire du ciel le plus bel endroit de la terre c'est impossible sans Concorde!
 
57AZ
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Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:55 pm

RE: When Did Convicts Start Wearing Stripes?

Mon Nov 29, 2004 5:52 am

As noted above, some states stopped using them as early as the 1930s. I believe the reason it stopped was changes in clothing style and cost reduction (depending on the manufacturing process, some striped uniforms required a large amount of material per unit produced). Principal reason for the stripes was to make the individual stand out. You'll notice that a lot of clothing today has horizontal stripes (not black and white), reducing the distinctiveness of horizontal striped appearal. Still, it's very easy to identify someone in a neon orange coverall/jumpsuit with "PRISONER-PIMA COUNTY JAIL" stencilled on the back. Also, they're cheaper to procure than the striped uniform. Florida changed the uniforms in the 1930s for cost cutting reasons. They found that the amount of material that had to be purchased for the production of one uniform was getting too expensive and changed the uniform to a pair of commercially available denim jeans with a white stripe on the outside of each leg. On each stripe it read "Florida Dept. of Corrections." A number of states followed this example, including my home state of Tennessee. Inmates were still readily identifiable but the uniform cost per unit plummeted, especially once production went in-house (prison industries).
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
duke
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Joined: Tue Sep 21, 1999 9:52 pm

RE: When Did Convicts Start Wearing Stripes?

Mon Nov 29, 2004 6:18 pm

But I think some places kept them. At any rate, the distinctive design has apparently been re-introduced in places. I imagine it should be cheap to produce with prints today.
 
57AZ
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Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:55 pm

Convict Uniforms

Tue Nov 30, 2004 1:13 pm

Some places have reintroduced them indeed. They would also be fairly easy to reproduce with prints. However, there are are two considerations there to look at. One is how long the prints last before fading to the point that the uniform requires replacement. More important though is whether the prison system has the infrastructure to produce printed garments. Most state prison systems do not use standard procurement for inmate or even guard uniforms. Most state prison systems use their prison industries to make the items in house, thus saving money and providing inmates some vocational training. Other items that the prisons manufacture include furniture for government agencies, food supplies for the prison system (Texas grows all of the vegetables required for their system on prison farms), paper office products, etc. Where they save is in labor costs. Most inmates recieve anywhere between ten and twenty cents an hour for their labor as opposed to minimum wage for an outside laborer. Thus, the outside economic forces we think of don't always have anything to do with the way the prison systems do what they do.

Most often, the only thing that will motivate a prison system to make changes is legal concerns. Back about ten years ago, Alabama reintroduced the chain gang. However, legal issues were quickly raised that convinced Alabama authorities to abandon the chain gang idea again.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."

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