Lee Henry Morgan, Warden at California's San Quentin Prison is breathing a sigh of relief these days as the number of shankings in this infamously dangerous prison have decreased greatly over the past several months.
"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," said Morgan of the almost humane way prisoners are now treating each other on a daily basis.
Morgan credits a deputy warden's suggestions with bringing about such an incredible change. "We have LeRoy Perkins to thank for accomplishing what no other man before him has been able to accomplish. When he first told us his idea, we all laughed in his face, but now, we thank him every day for his courage to speak up."
Morgan, is, of course, referring to the change in dress code for the dangerous prisoners who call San Quentin home. "We got rid of the orange cotton jumpsuits and replaced them with blue flannel ones," said Morgan. "Who knew a simple change in fabric could have such amazing results."
Perkins was asked how he came up with such an odd idea.
"Well, as long as we keep this from the prisoners, I'll tell you just how this idea came about," said Perkins. "I was at home a few months ago and for some reason I just could not get warm. I was in a foul mood, barking at my wife and kids and just behaving badly in general. My wife brought me her blue Snuggie that she got for Christmas last year and told me to put my arms in it, wrap it around myself and see if that would warm me up."
Perkins said he felt foolish, but was ready to try anything. As soon as he put on the Snuggie, Perkins claims he was transformed into a cuddly teddy bear. "I thought to myself, if this can calm me down, why not those prisoners," and that is when he decided to make the suggestion. He bought a Snuggie for his supervisor, and the rest is history.
"Flannel has a very calming effect," claims prison psychologist Rose Almandone. "And the color blue is just so much more calming than orange. We have a new saying here at the prison now, if you're blue, you're happy."
The program is so successful that San Quentin is quickly becoming a model prison and other high-risk prisons are looking to change their prison wear lines as well. "We may even, at some point, replace the sneakers given prisoners with fleece-lined slippers, that is, if we can find it in the budget," said Sam "the Slam" Watkins, Commissioner of California's prison system.