When (and Why) Did WA DOC Prisoners Lose the Right to Wear Personal Clothing?

As documented in Greenhalgh v. Dep’t of Corr. (2014), WA DOC eliminated the right of prisoners to wear personal clothing in 2009. (See also DOC 440.000 and these early revisions of WA DOC 440.050 State-Issued Clothing/Linen.) As this Court of Appeals decisions states:

“In January 2009, DOC informed its inmates that it amended DOC 440.000 to eliminate inmate possession of excess or unauthorized personal clothing items by January 2010. Inmates had the following disposition options: (1) between July 1, 2009 and September 30, 2009, inmates could send out the clothing at DOC’s expense; (2) through December 31, 2009, inmates could give the clothing to a visitor; or (3) after December 31, 2009, inmates had 30 days to dispose of excess or unauthorized clothing. If an inmate was indigent, refused to pay postage, or failed to designate someone to receive the clothing, DOC donated or destroyed it. After January 1, 2010, all unauthorized personal clothing became contraband.”

All this after WA DOC promised hunger-striking prisoners at Washington State Penitentiary in 1999 that personal clothing would not be taken away. Was there a reason after so many decades that WA DOC staff suddenly couldn’t tell prisoners apart from non-prisoners and had no choice but to make this change? Or was this a chance for Correctional Industries to deepen their monopoly on captive consumers? Does having prisoners wear designated clothing make staff more or less vigilant about keeping track of where prisoners are and are supposed to be? Your guesses are as good as ours…

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