He believes the County Jail’s all-orange jumpsuits are increasingly being viewed as “cool,” so he decided to do something about it: purchase jumpsuits with horizontal black-and-white stripes, reminiscent of 19th-century prison garb.
For the sheriff, who has only seen snippets of the hit dark prison comedy, the choice was not arbitrary.
“It’s because as you see shows on television, like ‘Orange Is The New Black,’ some people think it’s cool to look like an inmate of the Saginaw County Jail with wearing all-orange jumpsuits out at the mall or in public,” Federspiel said to Michigan Live.
“It’s a concern because we do have our inmates out sometimes doing work in the public, and I don’t want anyone to confuse them or have them walk away.”
“We decided that the black-and-white stripes would be the best way to go because it signifies ‘jail inmate,’ and I don’t see people out there wanting to wear black-and-white stripes.”
Federspiel says he’s trying to adapt to an apparent culture change.
“When the lines get blurred between the culture outside the jail and the culture within the jail. I have to do something to redefine those boundaries, because they’ve been blurred far too often in public culture.”
As expected, some of the 500 inmates are not so happy about their sudden change of wardrobe.
“They don’t like it. They’ve been very verbal,” he says. “A lot of them have said, ‘We don’t like wearing black-and-white stripes.’ And my response is, ‘Too bad. Don’t come to jail.’ If you come to dinner at my house and you don’t like what I’m serving, don’t come back. If you don’t like the food, don’t come back. If you don’t like the clothes that I give you, don’t come back. I didn’t ask you to come wear this uniform.”
The sheriff adds he does not “expect everybody to agree” with the change.
“Some people may not like it, some people may like it — that’s the diverse community we live in,” he says. “But it’s what’s in the best interest of the public, and that’s what I have to look at.”
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