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Blue is For Boys, Pink is for… Prisoners? Is the Queensland Government on to something or just on something?

Now the Queensland Government’s suggestion about prisoners wearing pink is interesting on a number of levels. First let’s look at how “The Courier Mail” reported this:

“TOUGH-GUY criminals face the ultimate humiliation as the State Government looks to put them in prison-issue pink jumpsuits.

Police and Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey is considering a plan to force jailed members of gangs to wear fluoro pink prison uniforms.”

Greg Stolz From: The Courier-Mail October 21, 2013

This then, is part of the “get tough on crime” agenda. It’s proposed that a “bikie gangs only” prison, where among other things they’d be only be allowed out of their cells for one hour a day and outside visits would be limited to once a week.

Wearing pink is seen as “the ultimate humiliation” and a punishment. (The Breast Cancer Awareness campaign has just had a major setback here!)

The idea of forcing prisoners is supposedly based on the jail set up by Arizona Sherrif, Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio makes interesting reading. Apart from removing meat from the prisoners diets, the following quotes from Wikipedia go a long way to giving you a glimpse of the man:

‘In an ongoing case, federal judge Neil V. Wake ruled in 2008 and 2010 that the Maricopa County jails violated the constitutional rights of inmates in medical and other care related issues.’

‘One of his most visible public-relations actions was the introduction of pink underwear, which the Maricopa County Sheriff’s website cites as being, “world-famous.”[43] Arpaio subsequently started to sell customized pink boxers (with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s logo and “Go Joe”) as a fund-raiser for Sheriff’s Posse Association. Despite allegations of misuse of funds received from these sales, Arpaio declined to provide an accounting for the money.[44] Arpaio’s success in gaining press coverage with the pink underwear resulted in his extending the use of the color. He introduced pink handcuffs, using the event to promote his book, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s Toughest Sheriff.[45] Arpaio has said “I can get elected on pink underwear…I’ve done it five times.”‘


Which brings me to the interesting part of the expirement of dressing the bikies in pink.

Now, the proposal is to dress them in “fluoro pink”. But I’d rather talk about Baker-Miller pink.

pink uniform

It’s been suggested Baker Miller Pink or Drunk Tank Pink has a calming effect, and can reduce the likelihood of violence. Of course, social deprivation is likely to increase the likelihood of violence, so it’ll be hard to work out if this “expirement” is working.

This morning I’ve been trying hard to find a direct quote from Minister Dempsey to explain the reason for pink uniforms, but all I can find is general comments about what is being planned, not why. And I find this particularly interesting. For a start, is it possible that the reasons behind this decision are not punitive. Is it possible that, in fact, some enlightened soul has decided that if you’re going to lock a lot of bikies up in virtual solitary confinement that anything you can do to reduce the risk of violence is worth a try? Or are the Queensland Government really so stupid as to be saying that they intend to deprive bikies of their liberty for 25 years, keep them in a cell 23 hours a day and only allow them to have non-contact visits once a week, but we think that the pink uniforms are the “ultimate humiliation”?

And that’s why I’ve been searching for some explanation of the rationale behind the suggestion. It’s just possible that it may have an effect on prisons. It might even be a good idea to paint some of the rooms in schools and hospitals a “soothing” pink. But not as a “punishment” as a way of reducing the potential for aggression.

I remember an interesting question being put to a group of people: A man has committed a number of violent crimes. We have to discovered a magic cure-all which, if administered, would render him totally rehabilited and there is no possibility that he would ever re-offend. Would you prefer to send him to jail or to administer the cure? After it was established that it was a hypothetical, so the group had to accept the premise of no re-offending, there was a very interesting discussion. Some people still felt that it would be better to punish him, even though that meant he would eventually be released and someone else would potentially be his victim.

As a society, we seem happier punishing crime than preventing it. Many people are happy with the cost of building and maintaining prisons, but balk at a fraction of this cost being put into drug programs or education. Let’s be clear, the number of people in prison because of drug related problems or a lack of education is far higher than the “hardened” criminal concept that the media likes to present to us on a daily basis.

So the Queensland Government may actually be onto something. They may actually have a good idea. It’s just that they may not be prepared to tell the electorate of the real reason for fear that people would mock them. Then again, they may just think that wearing pink makes you a bit “girly” and this an extra bit of punishment.

Mm, I don’t remember any of the released Guatanamo Bay prisoners listing the orange jumpsuits in their complaints about the way they were treated.


Further links

Malcolm Gladwell interviews Adam Alter on his book, “Drink Tank Pink”

Social Deprivation Shachter


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  1. J.Fraser

    newman’s gang will be wearing yellow so that everyone can recognize the clowns that they are.

  2. J.Fraser

    Don’t bother coming to Queensland for a holiday …. the criminal motorcycle gangs are out of control and police need heavier weapons and body armour.

    According to the law & order Murdoch newspapers …. and of course the newman government.

    Take a holiday on Christmas Island ….. reading todays Murdoch newspapers there is nothing happening there.

    And no government warnings of any political unrest.

  3. laughingleftyRuss

    Does Campbell Newman suffer from Small Man Syndrome, or is it just Provide A Distraction Syndrome?

  4. diannaart

    “As a society, we seem happier punishing crime than preventing it.”

    Well, yeah, that and there is a dollar to be made in punishment. Not so much with prevention – too many lowly paid do-gooders clogging the machinery of capitalism.

  5. lawrencewinder

    Camp-bell “Il Duce” New-man: what a joke to think that wearing pink is going to put the frighteners on “Finks” et al….Did “Il Duce” announce this with hands-on-hips, knee’s slightly bent and one shoulder forward? Says more about his sexuality, I think.

  6. boombi

    I think this is a really awful thing to do to the brave women in the Australian Breast Cancer Network for whom pink is really symbolic and bonding colour. How insensitive

  7. olddavey

    These blokes will be cranky enough if they get locked up. Imagine the damage they’ll do if they have to wear wussy coloured underdungers.

  8. Dawn Whitehand

    Very sexist… it implies women are weak, embarrassing, inferior, something to not aspire too, etc – disgraceful!

  9. diannaart

    Pink was considered a colour for boys not so long ago:

    Of course, now, olddavey the colour pink is associated with the feminine – which means it is a real insult to male dignity to be associated with anything feminine. Gawd, next men will want to form relationships with the sheilas – then where will we be?

    Yup, anything suggestive of the feminine is to be avoided at all costs – even treating women as, ROFL, equals – can’t have anything of that nancy-boy stuff around ‘ere. Right?

  10. hannahquinn

    Pink for bikies is purely intended to ‘belittle’ them by making them like ‘girls’ because, as we all know, girls are just, well…not men.

  11. diannaart


    If wearing pink doesn’t make bikies feel emasculated – we could try telling them they “throw like a girl”.

    Nothing like using stereotypes about half the population to bring a handful of men into line.

    Wonder what effect this usage of female stereotypes has on the female half of the population? – I guess it doesn’t matter, coz we’re just a bunch of pink-wearing, crap at everything girls. It’s always been all about men – and their precious masculinity.

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