Florida Prisons Change Their Shaving Rules After Sixty Years
A few years ago, [see January 1, 2009, How To Save The State A Quarter Billion Dollars by Charles Patrick Norman] I wrote about how the state could save a cool million a year by giving up their preoccupation with clean-shaven prisoners. Requiring 100,000 men to shave daily with disposable Bic razors easily costs a million dollars a year, and with electric clippers purchased and maintained to keep all those heads trimmed to baldies, probably another million a year of tax dollars was spent, for what purpose?
Now the Florida DOC has seen the light, or, at least , a glimmer. One of the first noticeable acts of the Julie Jones era has been to allow state prisoners to grow half-inch beards. This comes as a pleasant surprise to those old-timers who were harassed for years by guards supervising the chow lines, insisting that they return to their cells to scrape away their stubble before being allowed to eat.
It has taken a long time for the Florida prison system to catch up with the feds and most other state prison systems, who don’t bother with prisoners’ shaves and haircuts. The reasons given for insisting that Florida prisoners remain clean-shaven with heads shorn have their roots in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, WWII, and the Korean War.
If it was good enough for Uncle Sam’s soldiers, it was good enough for state prisoners.
One of the rites of passage in the military induction process was to shave every recruit’s head. How many movies have illustrated the conversion from civilian to military life by showing young men’s heads being shaved? In the 1950’s, when Elvis Presley joined the U.S. Army, his new haircut was front page news. Stripping the individual’s identity by shaving his head and beard, taking his clothes, putting him in a communal shower with other similarly-situated men, and issuing him a uniform are the first steps toward indoctrinating the recruit (or prisoner) into his new life. It also serves to strip away one’s individuality and free will, and rebuild the person into an obedient drone. While that process may work well in creating a single-minded fighting force on the battlefield, it doesn’t have the same positive effect on prisoners. Instead, over time, it engenders the opposite effect.
With many military veterans returning home to peace-time after the wars, finding the job market tight, and resorting to work as prison guards, as these men rose through the ranks to positions of authority, it was only natural that they fell back on their military indoctrination to make rules to control prisoners’ lives. The excuses for shaving heads and faces, that if prisoners grew long hair and beards, they could change their appearance and escape, or it was for sanitary reasons, were baseless. The feds never had a bunch of prisoners grow beards and escape. It was simply a throwback to the G.I. era, a time when prison jobs drew obsessive compulsive and anal retentive control freaks who enforced military discipline on undisciplined felons. Shaving heads was just another part of the dehumanizing process, and served no useful purpose. Even today, when a prisoner is taken to “confinement,” for some supposed infraction, one of the first things the guards do is order the prisoner’s head shaved. That action establishes the guards’ total domination.
That’s me in the photo with the three-week growth of beard, taken March 14, 2015. The fuzz is only about a quarter-inch long, with a ways to go before it reaches the half-inch limit.
The question arises as to what happens next. Will the guards carry rulers and measure men’s beards, sending them to the barber shop? Of course, they’d better get all those broken electric razors repaired if they’re going to trim over 1200 men’s beards. They eliminated the disposable Bic razors because of suicide attempts (cutting wrists) and their uses in gang assaults, taking the blades out, attaching them to toothbrushes and cutting throats with the crude shanks. Now the beards are the rule. Could long hair be next?
No matter the motivations, Florida can now save a million dollars a year of tax-payers’ money that can be better spent on something else, like education. And it didn’t hurt a bit!