Crime and Punishment Museum


Why Black Men are Wearing Prison Jumpsuits in Chinatown

Courtesy of Aaron Ginoza

An employee of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment hands out coupons to pedestrians in Chinatown.

Pedestrians in Chinatown are inundated with advertising and gimmicks, from free burritos to digital billboards. And joining the marketing blitz on a recent sweltering Saturday afternoon was a group of young black men handing out coupons — wearing orange prison jumpsuits.

They were employees of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment. Some passersby politely took the coupons; most ignored or avoided them. But given the stereotypes associated with black men and crime, others took offense at the sight of black men being hired to wear the jumpsuits.

“It’s got kind of a rough edge to it,” said Wes Brown of D.C., who first saw the men last year. He said they’re dressed “like criminals” and “people see them and probably think that.”

“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Brown, who is black, said.

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