best dressed

Inmates at the Colorado State Penitentiary were employed in many activities.

image of Warden Best found here

“Carpentry, blacksmithing, shoe cobbling, clothing repair and general maintenance offered the principal activity and labor outlets for prisoners in the first decade or two of prison operation in Colorado. They were also employed in building walls, repairing prison buildings, and in farm and garden work. In the period of 1899 – 1900 about 2,200,000 pounds of farm produce was raised by prisoners.

On March 1909 Thomas J. Tynan was appointed to the office of warden. He made it possible for every man who was willing to work to have employment. Road camps were set up and unguarded prisoners worked away from prison walls for days at a time.

Prison boxing team found here

In 1925 the penitentiary purchased a canning factory and ninety acres of fruit trees, berry plants, vineyards and truck gardens The canning venture proved highly productive. Fruits and vegetables processed and canned included apples, apple butter, apricots, beets, green beans, catsup, cherries of all kinds, corn, peaches, Italian prunes, puree, pumpkin, plums, spinach tomatoes, and tomato juice.

In 1934 a sock-knitting machine was installed at a cost of $29,000, capable of producing one thousand pairs of socks per day at a cost of four cents per pair. Civilian clothing manufacture included suits, dress pants, dress socks, and white shirts. Soaps of all kinds, scouring powder, cold cream, vanishing cream, skin softener, lotion, shampoo, furniture polish, sweeping compound, bluing, ink, and flavorings were manufactured in quantities sufficient to supply all state institutions.

images found here

Warden Thomas J. Tynan went on the assumption that putting men in stripes for ninety days, the usual practice on entering the prison, was the wrong psychology. Beginning early in 1911 he put all new arrivals in blue and made them “convicts of the first class.” If they made good and followed prison routines, they were never subjected to the wearing of striped clothing.

image of prisoners forced to work in drag found here

By law in 1940, a prisoner upon discharge was given $5.00, a suit of clothes, and a railroad ticket. In 1995, a prisoner upon discharge was given $100.00, a suit of clothes, and a bus ticket.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 7:07 am  Comments (45)  
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45 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d be quite tempted if the stripes were vertical – so slimming. The horizontal stripe does nothing for my figure at all.

    [Love the coda Nursey, soooooo much progress ….. tsk]

    • I’d prefer a train ticket to a bus ticket. Something like the Orient Express please.

  2. That sounds like it was the way to go back then. Even now, it would be a hell of a lot better than what that asshat Joe Arpaio does in Arizona. I think around 90% of prisoners today are chronic drug addicts, so until you deal with that they’re going to keep coming back to jail.

    • I think Sheriff Joe has some good ideas, prison life should not be easy on the prisoner.

      • Being divested of one’s freedom is ‘not easy’. Divesting people of their human rights is criminal. And Joe Arpaio is guilty of human rights violations.

      • I completely agree SE. These people need rehabilitaion, unless you just want them to keep hurting themselves and others.

      • Absolutely, Scott.

  3. It’s perhaps a bit strange but the donkey prefers to stay free!

    • Donkey’s not the only one

  4. Loved this account and adored the previous bosom story

    • I like the contrast between the two tales 😉

  5. Totally off topic but I have been out of commission and may have missed it if you said you did.

    Have you read Shutter Island yet? Figured it would be up your alley.

    • I haven’t. It’s by the same guy who wrote Gone Baby Gone isn’t it?

      • Ugh…I don’t know..haha

  6. When I saw the title of your post on my Google reader, I was like, “Oh man, I can’t imagine what kind of pictures I’m going to find on Nursey’s blog today!” After reading it, of course my mind went to that warden in Arizona dressing his inmates in pink. I see another commenter has already brought up the subject. I think prison inmates need to work to pay for the very expensive proposition of keeping them in jail. It shouldn’t be easy, I agree–certainly harder than what everyone else has to do in society to survive. But true, there are also a lot of folks in jail who should be in a re-hab program. Prison reform is needed. Is it this way in Australia?

    • Yes we certainly need prison reform here too. Very few inmates get rehabilitated

    • Exactly how hard would you like prison life to be, then? If you’d like to know what Joe Arpaio’s jail and prison conditions are like, visit here: http:\\


      • I was thinking of your blogroll friend when I posted this Synchy

      • It’s a great pity there aren’t more folk like this Mr Best.

  7. Sounds pretty progressive for the time.

  8. the idea of prison farms is lovely – something redemptive about growing food from soil. drug/gang culture are probably the biggest impediments to rehab… can’t imagine a prison farm in todays world.

  9. Rehabilitation vs. retribution/punishment.
    Cost-effective & possible today? You’ve got me thinking.

    • the link that Synchy posted in her comment will get you thinking too Beth

  10. I am more interested in prison life than I would think I’d be- it guess it has something to do with imagining how I’d cope if I was wrongly convicted of murdering the mailman or something. I love stories of prisoners training dogs from shelters and employing prisoners in agriculture makes such good sense.

    I’ll bet they had to be very careful about which Colorado prisoners were in charge of the vanishing cream. Badda-bing!

    Shecky Lifer

  11. What? No mention of Wentworth’s Cell Block H? And no mention of Lizzie Birdsworth? As a longstanding admirer, all I can say is “Well, bugger me gently!” I am now off for a Shawshank.

  12. I would be a bit hesitant to eat something nowadays canned by criminals. 🙂

    • I don’t think the companies would be advertising the fact, so you wouldn’t know, would you?

  13. In the United States today, prison is big business. Most prisons are privately owned, for-profit ventures.

    I heard that the US has something like 5% of the worlds’ population, but has 25% of incarcerated people around the world.

    The old joke used to be that when you went to prison you had to make vehicle license plates. Nowadays, prisons churn out all sorts of manufactured goods produced, essentially, through forced or slave labour.

    I don’t think rehabilitation is in the vocabulary any more. That might cut into profits.

  14. 1) legalize it. prohibition is a sham and that is a fact.
    2) pretty sure that’s Travis Bickle in yon mugshot.

    • Ha! He does look like Travis Bickle doesn’t he?

  15. Not a single breast to be seen in this post… I hope this doesn’t become a habit.

    • Never fear RF, the breasts will return

  16. i like the prisoner with the iroqouis, he must have been the world’s first punk rocker lolol …. did the inmates see any of the money that they earned for the prison?

  17. Thanks for the comment! I thought to award you as well but I wasn’t sure if you were into that or not!

  18. We should go back to making prisoners dress in drag…

  19. Prison wear does seem to have spawned some styles, doesn’t it. The one that bugs me the most is the trend a lot of kids have these days of letting their pants hang down to their knees. Not only does it looks totally fucking stupid, but how are they going to run when some pissed off dude like me decides to chase them off my lawn with a hedge trimmer? Shit, you stupid punks, if you want to act like an inmate, then wear some fricken stripe or something. No one wants to see your dumb ass hanging out.

  20. It’s a wonder indeed that more prisoners didn’t escape after the commencement of the manufacture of the vanishing cream.

  21. Don’t get me started on discharged prisoners, no wonder half of them end up back in prison

  22. Stripes… ewww (unless they’re on animals)

  23. Interesting post, nursemyra, and interesting comments as well. Seems to me that it was a progressive approach.

  24. I’ve been meaning to come here and comment on this post. Same day you posted this my husband was telling me the wildest story about how the company he works for has been using a company that has female inmates make cold calls for them.
    The inmates have been getting them more business than their trained sales guys. Pretty amazing as this is the telecom business and the equipment is expensive stuff.

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