WILLIE DAIGLE has been at the state prison in Monroe for eight years—on the management side of the bars. A 23-year veteran of the state Corrections Department, Daigle is Monroe's associate superintendent. Among his duties is laying down the law on what prisoners can and can't have in their cells and on their walls—and the state is pretty much the decorator, Daigle says. Decorum standards are hard and fast, and there's an institutional sameness inside, as well as outside, the cell tiers of Monroe, now brimming with 2,200 inmates (180 over capacity, which kind of takes the fun out of it). The no-frills rules are designed to house everyone equally in a style of prison unchic, Daigle says. It's not supposed to be comfortable. But some do add a bauble here, a postcard there. Here are a few decorating do's and don'ts, in case you're headed up the creek. Rick Anderson
Seattle Weekly: What can't you put on your walls in a Washington state prison?
Willie Daigle: Here, there are certain items we specifically don't allow. Sexually explicit stuff, for one. They can't put nude pictures up. No Playboy centerfolds. That's Rule One.
Can't put them up, but can they have them?
They can have magazines. They can't put them on their walls.
How about colorful posters?
Too big. They take up too much space. They usually have a message.
Is that one of the prison housekeeping rules, no statements?
They're not allowed to have anything like that, such as gang symbols, any kind of hate-group material, or generally things that make a negative statement.
Their walls sound pretty bare. What can they put on them?
Most have pictures of their families, their loved ones, photos of that sort. Some of the guys have made small drawings, artwork, that we allow to be posted.
So decor can be a little like home?
A little. Some guys may sell curios or small items, which they make in prison and would be allowed to have in their cells. Others may do beadwork that they sell. But they have to be small things.
Of course they have TV?
Every inmate can have one.
Meaning there can be two TVs to a cell?
Yes. They each watch their own TV.
Any other comforts of home?
Radios. No hot plates, but some do have those little Stingers that heat up a cup of water, for example. We're removing them but some still have them because we used to sell them here.
How do double-bunked inmates manage their space?
Each of them has his own little area. Some guys put their stuff up right by their beds, next to their bunks, family pictures usually. You learn right away you have to share your space in prison.
Is it much the same all over the state?
Each prison may have a slightly different policy. But sexually explicit or hate messages and the like are banned everywhere. Walla Walla, in some cases, has four men to a cell. That gets a little complicated.
How about when you go home? Is your home decorated in any way to make you forget about your job—or, for that matter, remind you of it?
I don't have things at home that remind me of the institution. You can be sure of that.