Laundry, Clothing, & Bedding
On this page we will cover in-depth some of the most common day-to-day questions we get asked about being in prison, including what prisoners wear, how laundry is done, and how bedding works in prison.
What do Prisoners Wear?
People often ask us, “What do prisoners wear?” The Federal Bureau of Prisons provides inmates with all of the clothing and bedding items they require for daily life. This includes:
- This includes: Socks
- Khaki pants
- Khaki button-up shirts
- A winter jacket
- Black, steel-toed work boots (You might also be permitted to keep the blue, slip-on shoes issued while in transport.)
- A wash rag
At prisons located in colder climates, this also includes thermal underwear, knit hats and gloves. Depending on the prison in question, either on an annual or bi-annual basis, inmates are permitted to exchange worn clothing, footwear and bedding for new replacements. You can also buy additional clothing items from the prison commissary. Many different types of clothing are sold in the commisary. At FCI Petersburg, for example, they sell white and gray t-shirts, sleeveless undershirts, boxers, briefs, long underwear, knit hats, gloves, sweat pants and shirts, mesh gym shorts, tall and short socks, and a variety of boots, tennis shoes, sports cleats and shower shoes.
Laundry in Prison
Due to Executive Order 13423, which President Obama issued in 2011, all federal agencies must reduce water consumption by 2 per cent each year. As a result, most federal prisons are now phasing out regular washing machines and dryers, which used to be universally housed in inmate housing units. In their place have come large, institutional washing machines and dryers which all prisoners are required to use.
Depending on the size of the federal prison, inmates are usually assigned a laundry number and a laundry bag with their number attached to it. On their assigned days (e.g., Monday and Thursday) they can bring up their dirty clothes in their laundry bag and Laundry Services will handle washing and drying.
While rumors will abound, this model of washing clothing does not lead to the spread of disease or illness. The only two down sides to this are that your whites will start to look dingy fairly quickly and all your clothes will be washed with 50 or more other bags of clothing, which isn’t the most pleasant thought in the world.
People often wonder if someone working in Laundry Services will steal their laundry. Generally speaking this isn’t common. But it’s important to tie your laundry bag tight so it doesn’t come open in the wash. This is an easy way to lose clothing – not based on theft, but based on incidental loss since several bags will come open during each wash and this clothing will be jumbled together.
While some federal prisoners prefer to pay someone in their housing unit, or even a laundry worker, to either wash their clothes in the housing unit or to wash their clothes separately from others inside Laundry Services, this usually seems to be more bother and expense than it is worth. While it is a bother to have to wake up early and drop off dirty clothes to be cleaned, it is often easier to do so than to haggle with others, rely on them, and pay an additional expense.
If Laundry Services gives you the wrong size of clothing or boots you will be able to exchange them. Laundry Services at most federal prisons accepts clothes exchanges on the days that they wash laundry bags. This usually occurs in the mornings. Just approach the laundry drop-off window and address this issue with the guard assigned to the work detail.
Every housing unit is also equipped with a few ironing boards and clothes irons for inmate use.
Bedding in Prison
Securing bedding in federal prison works the same way as laundry does. When the new arrival comes in they will be issued a bedroll, which typically consists of two blankets, two sheets, two towels, and two wash cloths.
Prisoners generally place their dirty bedding in their laundry bag, along with the rest of their clothes, and send it together to be washed. At some prisons inmates hand in their dirty bedding and are issued new bedding. This will depend on local practice and will be detailed in the institution’s Admission and Orientation Handbook.
To learn more about laundry, clothing and bedding in prison, Contact Us.