Are there floating prisons in real life?

Topic overview

The Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black" about a women's prison gave the color orange a new and unwanted popularity. Because more and more people are wearing orange overalls, the likelihood of confusion with real prison inmates is too high, fears a sheriff in Michigan and has now ordered new clothes in the previously common stripe design.

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Because the series is so popular, some would think it was cool to wear the same clothes as the inmates, according to Sheriff William Federspiel of Saginaw County, Michigan, in charge of the county jail. "That's a problem because some of our prisoners sometimes work outside of the prison, and I don't want confusion or prisoners being able to leave without being noticed."

The decision for the stripes in black and white was made because they would best symbolize that a person is a prisoner, according to Federspiel. “I don't see anyone outside who wants to wear clothes with black and white stripes.” By the end of the year, all prison inmates are supposed to wear the new overalls, which cost around twelve dollars each.

Hype about the new Netflix series

The US series “Orange Is the New Black”, peppered with black humor, is about a fictional women's prison. Well-to-do main protagonist Piper Chapman is caught up in her past when her ex-girlfriend blows on her on a drug smuggling trial. In prison, Chapman meets a wide variety of characters from different social classes, including his ex-girlfriend.

The stories of the individual inmates are told in flashbacks, the topics range from child labor, violence, drug abuse, transsexuality and homosexuality, alcoholism and psychological problems to religious madness and gang wars. The series is based on the autobiographical novel by US author Piper Kerman and was implemented by "Weeds" producer Jenji Kohan.

Sheriff laments the blurring of boundaries

According to Federspiel, it is important not to blur the lines between fiction and reality. "I have to make sure that the boundaries that are too often blurred between everyday culture and the rules in prison remain upright," argues Federspiel to the news website

He doesn't want his prisoners to be easily identified. Although the color orange had already risen in popularity before the series, people are now even sewing a patch from the prison onto their overalls. In addition, it is customary to change the colors of the prison clothing from time to time.

Stripes popular in the 19th century

In the 19th century, striped prison clothing was common in the USA, but in the middle of the 20th century more and more prisons began to use other colors and shapes, writes the online service For example, prisoners in California prisons wear denim jackets and trousers, while in North Carolina there is a color coding system that is intended to make the prison sentences clear.

Orange is therefore often reserved for special prisons and tasks. In California, for example, prisoners only wear orange clothing when they are transferred. The orange overalls from Guantanamo are also known. The state of New York has banned orange-colored clothing for its prisoners at all, they are allowed to wear their own T-shirts - even if only in certain colors.

However, there are also prisons that deliberately use striped clothing as an additional punishment for the prisoners because of the historical connotation. In addition, in some states there was also confusion with nurses and doctors in surgical clothing.

Prisoners not very enthusiastic

According to Federspiel, the prisoners are not enthusiastic about the color change, but he couldn't help them. “They feel like criminals - gone bad. Then don't go to jail, ”was his response to complaints. “We don't want to shame or humiliate them, but if they don't like something, that's usually fine. They shouldn't feel too comfortable. ”He also had to pay attention to what was in the public interest.