Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Clothing / Laundry

[This was written while in prison.]

When you are admitted to FPC Pensacola, you are assigned the following clothing:

5 green shirts (long-sleeve if you want)
5 green pants
1 green jacket
4 white t-shirts
4 white boxers/briefs
4 pair of white socks

You also get 2 twin sheets, 2 blankets, a pillow and pillow case, 2 laundry mesh bags, and one pair of black Rhino steel-top work boots.

Additionally, you can buy sweats (shirt, shorts, pants) and additional boxers, t-shirts, and socks at the commissary on monday nights.

Only prison camps have green uniforms All other federal prisoners where khaki uniforms. Or so I am told... I have nothing to document that.

The green shirts and pants have your name tag ironed on. The name tag includes your name, id number, and laundry bin number. You laundry bin number is also attached to your laundry mesh bags.

(click to enlarge)

There are two ways to clean your clothes -- use the prison laundry or use the dormitory laundry.

Each dormitory floor has a laundry room for use by inmates. My room is next to the laundry room, which has 3 commercial washers and 3 commercial dryers. Oftentimes, I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom (which requires me to walk past the laundry room) and I will see someone doing their laundry (or someone else's -- it is common to pay poor inmates to do your laundry). You can buy laundry soap in the commissary.

This will come as no surprise... I do not do my own laundry. I use the prison laundry.

The prison laundry is located on the backside of the old airplane hangar behind the dorm. I can see it out my window across the staff parking lot. [See second picture at the bottom of the page.]

This is how the procedure works.

Put all your whites and sweats in your mesh laundry bag and use the pull string to tighten the opening (you should also tie a knot to prevent the pullstring from loosening otherwise the contents will empty into the wash).

Walk to the laundry and drop your bag through the chute in the door along with your separate greens. This should be done before 7a. Since your greens have an id number on them, as does your mesh bag, the laundry staff can keep your stuff together.

The mesh bags are loaded into 160lb commercial washers. Of coarse, the greens are washed in separate loads. After washing, they are dried in big tumble dryers. After drying, the green shirts and pants are folded by the inmates who have laundry duty that day. I did this 2 or 3 times during my stay.

The mesh bads and folded greens are then stacked in cubbyhole bins according to each inmate's laundry number (I'm 702 as you can see on my id tag above).

Laundry can be picked up after 2p. In other words, you drop your laundry up before work in the morning and you pick it up when you return in the afternoon. Pretty simple. I usually do it on Monday.

As for linens, you take your 2 sheets, 2 blankets, and pillowcase and exchange them for clean ones; you don't keep washing the same ones over and over.

Inmates run the laundry although they are supervised by a staff person.

I am going to try to keep one set of greens and my work boots when I leave as "souvenirs" but I don't know yet if it is allowed. I thought it would make an original (and authentic!) Halloween costume.

In the meantime, I will get a picture taken of me in greens so you can see that the uniforms are not bad. Except for the name tag, no one would know that you are an inmate. It's not like walking around in an orange jumpsuit.

[UPDATE: I was not allowed to take any clothing with me :( I did get a picture taken which is displayed above. ]


Anonymous said...

Bill: For the sake of time and convinience would it not be easier to use the dorm wash/dry machines, once every week? Are they free or coin operated, or card oeprated? Plus how do you find an inmate to do your laundry in the middle of the night? Please explain...

Anonymous said...

You may not realize but I believe you have thousands of viewers of this blog, we are reading all your posts and comments and answers to comments. People in other FPC's know about your Blog, I was told from the inside out, it's like a movement or a reality show, so imagine the exposure this BLOG is receiving. I don't know if you are perceived as a hero or a spokesman for the unfortunate inmate, but whatever you are doing is a god-send. God bless you and your family.

Bill Bailey said...

There are 3 washers and 3 dryers for 250 inmates on a floor. Depending on when you do your laundry, you typically have to wait in line so I don't think convenience is the primary motivator for doing your own laundry. The guys who did their own laundry were sticklers for neatness and cleanliness. The idea that all their clothes were being washed with all the others was, well, repulsive to them. Also, the clothes washed in the prison laundry usually end up very wrinkled. If you wash them yourself, you can eliminate most of the wrinkles.

The dorm laundry is free, except you have to buy your own detergent.

It is easy to find other inmates to do your laundry... just ask around. As for doing it in the middle of the night, I think that is just because these guys are doing the laundry for several inmates and the easiest way to find a block of time where the machines are available is to do it at 3 in the morning!

In other words, a guy will discretely stop by several rooms one evening and pick up the laundry bags and then wash, dry, iron, fold in the middle of the night and get them back to you in the morning.

Like I said, some guys will do what it takes to make a few bucks (actually, cans of mackerel) to survive. They are very resourceful.

Bill Bailey said...

I appreciate your comments about the thousands of viewers, although I don't think it is that many people.

While in prison, I had it set up to do some advertising to drive people to the site and I believe I had maybe 35000 visitors over 3 months, which is a lot.

However, that was a little expensive so I have cut back on the advertising. I think I get about 60 people a day according to the stats I look at.

The internet is an amazing thing. I just sit here in my office and write about my life hoping that someone will read it and benefit. I try not to internalize that the whole world might be looking at me because it doesn't feel that way. I just go about my life with my friends and family like I always have (albeit with a slightly more truncated schedule due to my current home confinment).

BOP knows I am writing this and hasn't told me to stop. My probation officer knows it (and says its ok). So far, no one has told me that I am doing something wrong so I keep writing what I think.

I hope it makes a difference. I am just one person. I occasionally get feedback, some of which I recently posted a few days ago, that my blog has been a source of comfort and strength to some, so that is certainly encouraging.

I don't know where this will end up going. I will keep plodding along and, maybe one day, there will a tipping point and there will be an explosion of prison and sentencing reform. Who knows?

Anyway, thanks for your comments.

The Road Home said...


I have written to you before..Just wondering how did you advertise your blog. Jerry's writing one as well. Therapeutic for him and he is a journalist by trade. His website is for you help. Eileen Beairsto

Bill Bailey said...


First, you deserve congratulations on helping Jerry publish his blog. I underestimated how much time my wife had to spend entering my entries so I know it is a sacrifice.

As for advertising, I used Google Adwords which is a pay-per-click form of advertising. You bid on keywords (e.g. "federal prison") and whenever someone does a Google search on those keywords, your "ad" will appear. You only pay if someone clicks on your "ad." You never pay more than you bid, although you will often pay less. Your ad position is largely determined by your bid but relevancy (measured by click-thru-rate) is also important. My internet business requires me to do a lot of this so I was already familiar with the procedure.

Go to

I spent about $5000 (or about $50/day) which I didn't expect and I understand that is beyond most people's budget but you can set a daily budget that Google will not go over.

You can also post a link to his blog at Prison Links which I think is a feature of Prison Talk.

Hope this helps.

The Road Home said...


thanks for you kind words..I hope you are well.I miss your blog tremendously but figure you are now off of house confinement. Maybe you and Amanda went away for a long trip. The blog is going well. Jerry is struggling a bit. So much has gone wrong with him and the prison, he was listed as a sexual offender for starters. He is in for stock fraud. He then got to the 32 points needed for work release and was quickly interviewed and denied, which we expected but now there are telling him he can't reapply for work release until 10/09 which is his release date???The BOP has not gotten one thing correct. Please le t me know how you are and thank you so much for your blog. Your writing proved to be such a big source of comfort I can't tell you. I hope Jerry will tell his story and save people from having to go through this ordeal. IT is a complete nightmare!!! AS I am sure you know. Take Care, Sincerely, Eileen Beairsto