Former inmate Amanda Dove (@prison_story) has built a substantial following on TikTok, documenting her life post-incarceration. Now, she’s sharing the insights she learned about prisons in the U.S. In one video, Dove touched on a topic most TikTok viewers seemed to not even think about when it comes to going to jail: What do you do if you wear contact lenses?
It’s a problem the estimated two-thirds of American adults who wear some type of glasses or contact lenses should think about if they ever get arrested.
“On my first day of prison, the officer was like, ‘Raise your hand if anybody has contacts in their eyes,'” Dove says in the clip. “And a bunch of girls raise their hands just automatically, and I kinda held back even though I had contacts, but I wanted to see what was gonna happen.”
According to Dove, the guard “made every single girl take their contacts out, and she did not give glasses. There was no replacement — like, nothing.”
“Those girls had to go their entire incarceration without being able to see,” Dove says.
For anyone serving time longer than one year, Dove explains they did have the option of applying for a pair of state-issued glasses. But they had to undergo an eye exam first — which they had to pay for themselves — before they could receive a pair of new lenses.
The former inmate describes the thick, black-rimmed glasses as “the ugliest things I have ever seen,” and she did her best to avoid wearing them.
In the meantime, she stayed quiet about her contacts and kept them in her eyes for as long as possible. Because of that, she said they became “dry and crusty” from not being regularly cleaned. They even sometimes traveled to the back of her eyeball when she slept.
Eventually, Dove asked her dad to have a pair of glasses made for her outside of prison. She lucked out when the warden allowed her to wear them. However, she says that other girls weren’t as lucky and went their entire incarcerations “completely blind” if they weren’t able to afford the state-issued glasses or have a family member send ones from home.
HCDSMass, a platform that aims to help friends and family of inmates with answers to common questions, wrote that while the entitlement to glasses in prison is always there, there are several factors that can impact how easy it is to actually get glasses.
Private prisons, for example, are typically faster at getting someone glasses than a larger state prison. Glasses must also meet certain criteria, including being under $100, without mirrored or transitional lenses. The frames, meanwhile, should preferably be plastic in either black or brown.
According to HCDSMass, getting glasses that meet all the necessary requirements from an outside family member is also allowed.
“You’re not allowed to have contacts in prison,” Kent says in her video, adding that the reason boils down to cost.
“They’re not going to keep replacing the contacts. They’re not going to give you the solution and everything you need to go with your contacts, so you’re gonna have to get glasses,” she explains.
While the cost of contacts certainly comes into play, there are also other reasons behind the ban.
According to Prison Query, a criminal justice-focused blog written by a former correctional officer, contact lens accessories and products can pose a safety risk since they can be used to hide contraband or other illicit activities. It’s also considered a hygiene issue since contacts require proper cleaning and maintenance. That could be challenging in a prison environment with limited access to hygiene products or clean water.
That said, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Clinical Guidance says contacts are sometimes allowed in certain situations — but only if they’re considered “medically necessary.”
Following Dove’s recent TikTok, which now has over 10 million views, people have been responding with shock in the comments.
“I feel like glasses should be considered a medical necessity in prison,” wrote @hannahsdeaton.
“This is insane,” added @gingerdoodle. “The fix is simple.”
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