NORMAN — Cleveland County prisoners wear jail-issue uniforms of hot pink shirts and yellow-and-white striped pants, which some say make them look more like clowns than criminals. Sheriff's officials say the outfits were chosen for security reasons. "We want our inmates to be identifiable. If one of them slips over the wall, we want to know about it right away,” Undersheriff Rhett Burnett said. Burnett said the county switched to the colorful new uniforms about 16 months ago. The old orange uniforms were too similar to outfits anyone could buy at a uniform store and wear on the street, he said. Attorney Fred Shaeffer said he thinks the outfits were selected to embarrass the people who wear them. "There's no doubt in my mind that the intent was to humiliate them. "A lot of innocent people get arrested and go through that jail, and everyone is supposed to be presumed innocent until they are found guilty. It's bad enough to be arrested, but to then be humiliated by having to wear a costume like that is wrong,” he said. The fact that they're garish is what Sheriff Joe Lester likes about them, Burnett said. "He wanted something identifiable that couldn't be duplicated,” the undersheriff said. Medical "scrub” uniforms are similar to the orange outfits inmates used to wear, Burnett said. "It's become popular to wear those green or blue medical uniforms, and you can also buy similar orange ones. Particularly, in Norman, orange is a popular color because it's one of Norman High School's colors,” Burnett said. The uniforms were not selected to humiliate anyone, Burnett said. "They're pretty awful, but then the whole experience of getting arrested is pretty awful,” said Connie Albritton of Big Red Bail Bonds. Attorney Dave Stockwell said he doesn't mind the outfits. "Hey, you're in jail. That's humiliating in itself. And from what I've been told, there were a couple of false sightings of prisoners on the street when we had the old uniforms. With these, you better be wearing handcuffs if you're walking down the street dressed like that,” Stockwell said.
Elsewhere Oklahoma County attire Sheriff John Whetsel said Oklahoma County inmates wear different colors depending on their status. All of them wear matching shirts and pants with rubber sandals called jelly shoes. The general population wears orange; Corrections Department inmates wear green; jail trusties wear white, or blue and white if they work outdoors; and juveniles wear red.