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Florida Jail to Discontinue Providing Underwear

As a cost-cutting measure, Polk County, Florida Sheriff Grady Judd has decided his jail will no longer provide underwear to prisoners. “There’s no state law, there’s no federal law that says we have to provide underwear in the county jail,” he said.

Judd has instituted several other changes to make conditions at the Polk County Jail more onerous. He has ordered less expensive food to be served to prisoners; removed coffee, juice and fresh milk from the menu; had the jail’s basketball hoops taken down; and limited TV options to focus on educational programming. He contends the changes are motivated toward saving money.

The plan to cut underwear would save $45,000 per year, Judd said when he presented his proposal to the county commissioners on July 14, 2011. “Why shouldn’t they pay like the rest of us pay? We pay to maintain the county jail; to keep them there,” he stated.
“Certainly they can pay their way as much as they can afford. This is the county jail; it’s not a welfare program.”

He proposed selling underwear to prisoners on the jail’s commissary for between $2.54 and $4.48 a pair.

Florida’s prison system, and many of its jails, provide prisoners with underwear while also offering them the ability to purchase those garments. “We provide the inmates with their clothing and they don’t have to pay for it, and that includes their underwear,” said Gretel Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC).
“They can purchase underwear if they want a different kind or more pairs than we can give them.”

The standard issue of underwear at FDOC facilities is four pair of boxers and four T-shirts for men, and four bras and seven pairs of panties for women. Those garments are generally purchased through PRIDE, Florida’s prison industry program. Prisoners can also buy underwear from the FDOC’s canteen system. Some male state prisoners receive boxer shorts made from recycled bed sheets as a way to cut costs.

Indigent Polk County prisoners who can’t afford to buy underwear may have to go without, but in doing so the sheriff may be creating a hygiene issue. “Inmates don’t have a constitutional right to underwear. It’s well within the discretion of the sheriff to not provide inmates with undergarments,” said Don Leach, former president of the American Jail Association. “Of course, from the other side of it, he [Judd] might have to increase his laundry cycle to cut down on unhygienic practices because you don’t want inmates walking around with soiled clothing on.”

Sources:, Broward Palm Beach New Times

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