Mug shot shirt color is picked by chance

I have noticed that Jackson County Jail inmate mug shots printed in the paper sometimes show the suspects wearing shirts of varying color. Sometimes the shirts are purple and other times either gray or a pinkish color. Is there a system in the jail that determines why some inmates wear a certain color in their mug shots? — Will C., White City

The color of shirt worn by a new inmate in the mug shot depends entirely on chance, according to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters.

"It all depends on which shirt they grab off a shelf when they enter the jail," Winters said. "Also, it depends on what size they wear. If we find a shirt that fits them, no matter the color, that's the one they wear."

So why not just photograph them in the clothes they wore when they entered the jail?

"We want them to wear fairly drab shirts because detectives from other agencies use these mug shots in photo line-ups during investigations," Winters said.

The goal of a photo line-up is to ensure no suspect stands out from the others. This makes it fair when a witness goes to pick out a suspect from a group of mug shots.

Once the inmate moves past the processing stage he or she is clothed in color-coded jail uniforms.

Those on felony charges wear orange clothing while general population inmates wear simple green outfits. Jail trustees, those who do chores around the facility such as cooking and sweeping, wear a black-and-white striped uniform.

"It's important you keep certain inmates separated from others," Winters said. "Otherwise it could lead to problems."

The jail did adopt a strategy to keep outgoing inmates from stealing the underwear they were issued.

"We give the male inmates pink underwear," Winters said. "Most guys won't bother taking pink underwear with them when they leave. It saves the taxpayers money because we don't have to keep replacing them."

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