Can You Wear Jewelry In Prison?

By Natalie

Updated: July 16, 2019

Jewelry is a reflection of personal style, and even if it isn’t expensive, some pieces have sentimental value that can’t be measured. From necklaces to ankle bracelets, you wear jewelry for a reason, and it is an important accessory when you are dressing up.

Of course, things change when you are in prison. The Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons aren’t big fans of inmates showing individual style. Everything the inmates wear is either issued by the facility or can be bought at the commissary, which means it all looks exactly the same.

Surely, they allow inmates to wear jewelry, right? What’s the harm in that? Keep reading to find out if inmates can wear jewelry in prison.

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • What kind of jewelry is allowed in prison?
  • Do you have to take out your piercings in prison?
  • Can you wear jewelry to a visit?

What kind of jewelry is allowed in prison? 

Inmates are only allowed to wear two types of jewelry in prisonㄧa plain wedding band and a religious necklace. The reason this rule is in place is because of safety. Rings with any kind of jewels or engravings can be used as brass knuckles in a fight and necklaces can be used to strangle someone.

Yes, this sounds horrible, but unfortunately these concerns are valid. In 2010, an inmate named, Robert Gleason, killed another inmate at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia by strangling him to death with a religious necklace.

Most prisons have restrictions to the necklace: they must be non-metallic, cost less than $100, and have smooth edges.

Most facilities also have a $100 limit on the price of a wedding band. The reason they keep the price low is because expensive pieces of jewelry can be used as currency inside a prison, and if you wear expensive jewelry, you could run the risk of having it stolen.

Inmates are allowed to bring in these pieces with them when they enter prison, or they have the opportunity to order these items from an authorized vendor. There are also some institutions that sell religious jewelry in their commissary. Friends and family are not allowed to mail these items to the inmate.

In 2012, Curtis Rowlandan inmate in the Nebraska Department of Correctionssued prison officials for violating his civil rights when they wouldn’t allow him to wear a medallion featuring Martin Luther King Jr.

The case made it to the Federal Court of Appeals where the court ruled that the prison wasn’t violating Rowland’s first amendment rights. They decided that who was on the necklace was irrelevant, and they made it clear the decision was all about safety.

“We reject as an intrusion of a prisoner’s First Amendment rights the granting of possession of some medals and not others contingent upon their meeting an official standard of religious orthodoxy.” 

Do you have to take out your piercings in prison?

Absolutely, yes. When you enter prison, you are strip-searched, and the intake officer will make a note of every tattoo and piercing you have. You are required to remove every piercing except for microdermal implants.

Can you wear jewelry to a visit?

So, if jewelry is a safety issue, can visitors wear jewelry into a visit? For most facilities, visitors are only allowed to wear a wedding set (wedding band and engagement ring) and religious jewelry.

The rules do change based on the facility, but they are usually pretty strict. It’s always best to keep things simple when you are visiting an inmate in prison. At most facilities, you will walk through a metal detector, and jewelry will set it off. They might make you return the items to your vehicle or store them in a locker before your visit.

Prison rules for jewelry are all about safety. Pretty much anything and everything is considered a possible weapon in prison, so in an effort to keep inmates safe, they keep the jewelry to a minimum.

Do you think inmates should be allowed to wear jewelry? Let us know in the comments below.


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