Sagging Inmate Pants Make Judge Uptight

TAMPA | The case of Circuit Judge Daniel Perry vs. the sagging pants continues.

For the second day in a row, Perry on Thursday sent dozens of inmates scheduled to appear in his Hillsborough courtroom back to jail because one inmate’s jail uniform pants offered too much exposure of his underwear.

On Wednesday, Perry sent 71 inmates out and delayed court hearings by 90 minutes because several of them were wearing their pants too low. Thursday, 39 inmates were prevented from appearing.

“I do not want to see these people in here again with their rear ends hanging out of their pants,” Perry said, according to a transcript. “We’re done.”

He has declined to comment.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s officials have said the judge is right to be angry. They said inmates are not allowed to wear their pants low in the jail, but some deputies have issued uniforms that are too big to inmates.

Here’s the statement released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Thursday:

“The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is well aware of the recent situation regarding inmates and ill-fitting jail uniforms being worn in court. Judges require and deserve courtroom decorum both in demeanor and appearance, and that also applies to inmates appearing before them. Sheriff David Gee has ordered the situation with jail uniforms to be rectified today, and all inmates will be issued the proper sized clothing to wear in court settings.”

On Tuesday, an inmate’s exposed underpants had prompted the judge to cut court short.

His actions drew a quick response from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were reminded of proper sizing methods for inmates, and a selection of spare pants was delivered to the courthouse.

Score one for the judge in the case of Perry vs. Sagging Britches.

“The judge was justifiably frustrated,” said Col. David Parrish, who runs the county’s jails. “It should have been caught by my staff.”

For insight into Judge Perry’s aggravation, consider this: He saw an inmate’s pants actually fall down in court earlier this year.

As the judge who hears probation violation cases, Perry decides whether inmates stay on probation or go to prison. Reasonable people, said defense lawyer Rick Terrana, would try hard to make a good impression on the judge.

“Walking into court with your pants behind your knees is about the most unfavorable impression you can make,” he said. “It’s like a slap in the face of the court.”

He had a case before Perry on Wednesday morning but didn’t mind the inconvenience.

“We’re used to delays around here,” he said.

Debra Villano rushed from her home in Spring Hill to attend a friend’s 8:30 a.m. hearing. An hour later, she was among about 30 restless people still waiting outside Courtroom 16B. A sign hung on the door: Court will be delayed waiting for transport of inmates. Not sure how long.

Villano didn’t quibble with the judge’s gripe but rather with how he made his point.

“It’s very disrespectful” of people’s time, she said. “That’s the jail that failed. It shouldn’t have been put on anybody here.”

Jail officials fight a constant battle to get inmates to keep their pants up. The sagging style is thought to have started in prisons where belts or drawstrings were considered safety hazards. It’s thought that the style was then picked up on the streets after being embraced by rap artists.

But Parrish said the inmates aren’t ultimately to blame.

Deputies shouldn’t hand out oversized uniforms, he said. It’s up to them to make sure that a man with a 30-inch waist doesn’t end up in a pair of XXL pants, and the deputies who drive inmates to court should double-check attire, he said.

Perry called Parrish on Tuesday about the problem. After it occurred again Wednesday, the jails chief vowed to make things right.

“I’m not going to have this come up again,” Parrish said. “That may be cool fashion to some people out on the street, but it’s not what we expect in the jail system.”



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