Conjugal visits aren’t allowed at the county jail, unless you can figure out a way to cut a hole through the thick pane of glass that separates inmates from their visitors. Some visitors simply wear revealing clothing to remind their incarcerated loved ones about what fleshy glories await them on the outside.
Talk about a cock block. The new sheriff in town is enforcing dress codes at county jails more severely than the previous administration while also cutting back on visitations for inmates.
Bill Waybourn took over as sheriff on January 1 after defeating longtime incumbent Dee Anderson. A couple of months later, the sheriff reduced visitations with inmates from seven days a week to three. And the revealing clothing that was sometimes worn by visitors in the past is no longer being tolerated.
A woman who visited her husband in jail on a near-daily basis is angry that she is now limited to three days a week. She complained about being refused visitation on a recent day for breaking the dress code, even though she considered herself to be conservatively dressed.
“The dress code is insane for visitors,” she said, asking for anonymity to protect her incarcerated loved one from any potential retaliation. “How can you keep a family together if you can’t see them? Seems like it would keep the inmate down, when I thought we wanted to make them productive citizens.”
Dave McClelland, the sheriff’s chief of staff, said the dress code is the same as it was under the previous administration.
“The dress code is being enforced from the standpoint that you can’t wear extremely skintight clothing and extremely short shorts,” he said. “You have to be somewhat properly dressed in order to go into visitation, so people aren’t giving their loved ones peep shows during visitation time.”
The woman who spoke with us said that jail staff sent her home for wearing a t-shirt with capped – or shortened – sleeves. The armholes were tight and did not allow anyone to see anything other than her armpits, she said.
Visitation rules, dress codes, and other jail information are available on the county’s website. Prohibited articles of clothing include halter-tops, bathing suits, see-through garments, Spandex, and sleeveless garments.
“You have got a bunch of men with their girlfriends coming to visit, and we don’t want things getting out of hand in visitation booths,” McClelland said.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the regulatory agency for county jails, requires that inmates be allowed to see visitors twice a week. The new sheriff is exceeding those expectations by one day.
Waybourn decided to restrict two days of the week – Wednesdays and Thursdays – to inmate visitations from attorneys and chaplains.
“That is to facilitate attorneys talking to their clients more,” McClelland said.
The county’s jails currently hold about 3,500 inmates. About 1,000 jailers and clerical staff are employed to cover three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Preparing for a visit requires an employee to remove an inmate from his cell, take him to the visitation area, provide 30 minutes of visitation while under surveillance, and then return him to his cell. It’s a cumbersome and timely process. But inmates deserve and want visitation time with their loved ones, even when they are dressed like Quakers at a barn raising.