By M.L. Elrick February 3, 2001, Saturday Copyright 2001 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Detroit Free Press February 3, 2001, Saturday
(DETROIT -- Add another title to the new Macomb County sheriff's resume: chief of the fashion police.
Sheriff Mark Hackel, who says he was never a fan of the county's retro jail uniforms, will strip prisoners of their stripes. Besides the black-and-white striped uniforms' cost _ $18 each _ Hackel said the blousy duds were not very durable and did little for inmates' esteem (not to mention their figures).
"I just thought it was kind of silly seeing people walking around in those uniforms," Hackel said. "These things look terrible. They faded terribly."
Instituted by Hackel's father, William Hackel, in the fall of 1999, the uniforms were meant to easily identify prisoners as well as give them an incentive to work up to jailhouse gigs with less onerous outfits. Trusties, for example, wear orange.
Mark Hackel said less than 500 of the striped uniforms are left. Once they're worn out, all of the jail's approximately 1,350 inmates will wear cheaper solid color uniforms.
Striped uniforms that aren't too ratty may be given to charities to auction off at fund-raisers, Hackel said. Hackel said he has not decided which color will replace the stripes, but fuchsia is definitely out.
"It's not my position to punish people while they're in the jail. I'm here to make sure they're kept here, they're fed here, they're not a risk to society," Hackel said. "I'm not here to further their humiliation with pink uniforms, for crying out loud."
Mount Clemens, Mich., defense attorney Brian Legghio applauded the change.
"It shows that Mark Hackel is progressive in his view of how to treat people in custody," he said. "The problem with the stripes is they're extremely humiliating and extremely disgraceful for the individual.
"The criminal justice system has its own mechanism to punish people who have been found guilty of a crime."
The stripes also unfairly punish people awaiting trials in which they may not be found guilty, Legghio said.
Not to mention they're getting pretty tatty looking.
"They're not in great shape," Legghio said. "They're very dirty looking."