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CLOTHES UNMAKE THE MAN

An emerging field of study says prison uniforms make the incarcerated less likely to be rehabilitated

@schmeilson

IN 2006, the Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) decided it had to do something about the female inmates in its facilities. The women were unruly and anxious, often refusing to comply with regulations and occasionally acting violently. The guards took a rare step back, thought for a second and came up with a theory. The female inmates might be feeling dehumanized— and acting accordingly—because of their clothes.

PENAL VOGUE: Contestants stand during a beauty pageant at the Talavera Bruce women’s prison in Rio de Janeiro. The annual event aims to humanize female inmates, who get makeup and hairstyling from volunteers.
MARIO TAMA/GETTY

The guards noted how many of the women’s feet were slipping around in shoes three sizes too large, and how their sanitary pads could be seen through the near-translucent fabric of their uniforms. “A male’s white uniform doesn’t do much for [a woman’s] self-respect,” Jack Ford, a DOC spokesman, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

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