A clothing shortage is forcing inmates in at least one Illinois prison to wear the same underwear several days in a row, causing a health and hygiene concern, a watchdog group said.
The John Howard Association found during a recent visit to the Taylorville Correctional Center that inmates wore dirty and badly worn clothes that were washed twice a week, The Bloomington Pantagraph newspaper reported for a story published Wednesday. The prison in central Illinois issues each inmate only two pairs of underwear, which means they must be worn multiple days without washing.
"The practice of administering used underwear that inmates must wear multiple days without washing raises serious hygiene concerns," a report issued by the group states. "(The Department of Corrections) must find a way to provide sufficient clothing for inmates."
"I think this is a problem system wide," said John Maki, who is director of the association. He said the underwear shortage is a symptom of larger problems such as overcrowding in the state's prisons.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections says officials are doing their best in difficult financial times. The state has a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.
"This issue is like many facing the state where budget constraints prevent us from being able to do mass uniform replacement," Stacey Solano said.
Inmates once were given a new set of clothes every six months. That no longer happens.
Taylorville was built to hold 600 inmates, but has over 1,200.
In addition, worldwide cotton prices have been on the rise since last year, forcing the cash-strapped state to pay more for the material used to make underwear and other clothing.