Illinois Prisoners Forced to Re-Use Underwear for Days at a Time

Jun 30, 2011 at 7:47 am

You, as an Illinoisan, are charged and convicted of a crime. You are transferred from your local jail to a minimum-security prison, which will be your new home for a while. On your first day you are issued a set of clothes: three pairs of blue pants, three blue shirts, one jacket, one stocking hat, two pairs of socks and two pairs of boxers.

Then, you are informed of the prison's laundry policy: each inmate gets two washes a week.

You do the math. And suddenly, you're feeling a bit icky.

As the (Bloomingdale) Pantagraph reports, at least one Illinois prison -- and likely more -- forces inmates to re-use their underwear four days in a row before washing.

According to a report by the John Howard Association, an Illinois prisoner advocacy group, the Taylorville Correctional Center is providing its inmates with dirty, threadbare clothes that are only being washed twice a week. The boxers that the inmates do receive are full of holes and stains, according to the authors of the report.

Prison advocates say the policy presents a serious threat to hygiene, and some inmates say they are so disgusted, they say they'd rather freeball.

The reason for the policy isn't surprising. Start with a state budget that's on the brink. Throw in an overpopulated prison system. Add the rising price of cotton across the globe. Suddenly the Illinois prison cells are stinking.

John Maki, director of the John Howard Association, said he believes the problem extends to other prisons, which are operating with more inmates than they were built to hold.

"This issue is like many facing the state where budget constraints prevent us from being able to do mass uniform replacement," Stacey Solano, a spokesman for the prison, told the Pantograph. The prison, it should be noted, otherwise received a good review.