The one thing I remember most about my first few days in prison was the shock of having everything taken away from me. When you are transported to the facility and you go through receiving, they place you in a separate area away from the general population, so you can be evaluated and classified. This process usually takes about a month because you have to take a bunch of different tests. They can find out your education level, your physical health, mental health, etc…
When you are in receiving, you have access to absolutely nothing. Even the items you can buy from the commissary are limited, and it usually takes a few days to get money on your books or go to the store. So, you are sitting in there with only the items the prison gives youㅡclothing, a toothbrush, a tiny bottle of shampoo, a blanket, and a laundry bag. That’s about it. Anything you bring with you is taken away.
So, if you go into prison wearing contact lenses, what on Earth do you do? The answer to this question depends on what kind of facility you are incarcerated in. That leads us to today’s question: can you have contacts in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
In a word, no. Inmates are not allowed to wear contact lenses unless they are medically necessary. Otherwise, the policy of the Bureau of Prisons is that the contact lenses must be sent home and the inmate must wear prescription glasses.
When it comes to eye exams and glasses, an eye doctor will visit each prison on a scheduled basis. Any inmate who wants to see the eye doctor and be evaluated for glasses must submit a request in advance.
Once they turn in their request, the inmate is put on a waiting list, and they are advised of their approximate appointment date, which can be weeks or months in the future.
If the eye doctor determines the inmate needs a pair of glasses, the doctor will order them for the inmate at the government’s expense. Then, it will take approximately four to six weeks to receive them.
Federal prisons do not allow eyeglasses from outside sources to be sent into the institution unless the Clinical Director deems it necessary.
As for the states, the policies vary. I was incarcerated in the state of Missouri, and they did allow you to have contact lenses, but there was a catch. You had to buy the contact solution and case from the commissary (which were way more expensive than they should have been), so you had to have the money on your books to buy the supplies you need.
Family members were allowed to mail in contact lenses or glasses from outside vendors, so you didn’t have to wait to see the doctor. That was a plus.
I know at some state facilities, they allow you to have contacts, but you are only allowed to get your solution from the doctor. It is closely monitored, like medicine. Then, there are other states that don’t allow contacts at all, just like the federal prisons.
The rules for contacts vary based on the state and the facility. Even if you are at a facility that allows contacts, often times, it’s better to just wear glasses because it’s a lot cheaper. There is much less hassle.
The most important thing is being able to see. Whether or not you look good with glasses is irrelevant. What you look like isn’t important because those state-issued glasses or not attractive on most people.
The frames are big and the lenses are thick. The inmates I was incarcerated with called them the “ChoMo 5000s” because when you wear them you look like a sex offender. There was no other way to describe it.
Should inmates be allowed to wear contacts? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Inmate Admission & Orientation Handbook For Federal Correctional Institutions and Prison Camps https://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/bec/BEC_aohandbook.pdf
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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