In the Blog

pink prisons. that’s right, pink prisons.

January 3rd, 2007     by Thea Lim     Comments

I was watching one of those flashy, over stimulating TV news channels when a clip about a leaked report on crime in Britain came on, stating that crime is up, and the British government is considering drastic measures to stop prison overcrowding, which include: 1) chemical castration for sex offenders 2) prescribing heroin to heroin addicts instead of methadone, and 3) painting cells pink and making prisoners wear pink t-shirts.


Yup, you heard it here, according to the Daily Mail newspaper, the pink prisons are intended to act as a “public shaming” that will discourage inmates from re-offending. And while it’s just an idea in Britain, in the U.S.A. it’s already been done - multiple times. This 1999 article describes a tent prison in the Arizona desert where prisoners were forced to wear pink underwear in order to humiliate them. And according to the Guardian, at a small county jail in Texas, prisoners “are dressed in pink jumpsuits….They sleep on pink sheets and wear pink slippers. Even the walls and the bars of the cells are painted pink.”

So, to summarise: government officials believe that hardened criminals can withstand being locked up; having the basic right of freedom taken from them; being subjected to all sorts of daily brutalities at the hands of wardens and other inmates; and being indefinitely separated from their families - BUT there’s no way that they can bear being dressed in pink.

Essentially this all seems to imply that pink is a fate worse than imprisonment. And since we all know that pink is the colour of little girls, what this really means is being seen to be a woman is worse than anything else. As someone who is clearly thrilled to be a woman, that really hurts my feelings.

What’s most disturbing about pink prisons as a deterrant to crime, is that it perpetuates ideas that there is something wrong with being “womanly,” i.e. docile, submissive and weak. The flipside of this implication, therefore, is that it is most desirable to be “manly,” i.e. aggressive, tough, and maybe criminal. Doesn’t this just lead back to lessons about gender roles which suggest that there is something sexy about crime and violence - the same lessons that possibly lead people in crime in the first place?

The most discouraging thing is that the British government has clearly stated that the rise in crime is due to economic downturn, or, as we lay people like to say, poverty. But instead of addressing how poverty creates crime, (By the by, crime rates were successfully decreased in Colombia after a number of initiatives, including “educational projects which saw former gang members giving speeches in primary schools, additional street lighting and the modernisation of shantytowns” were put into place.) the government has decided that the best route to curb crime is to insult inmates by suggesting that they’re pretty little girls. Great.

Tags: news flash

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