Here's How Pink Became a Prison Color

July 9th 2015

Prisons in the U.S. are going pink—Baker Miller Pink—in a psychological attempt to subdue prisoners.

In this new Atlas Obscura video, co-founder Dylan Thuras asks:

"How does this make you feel? Does it make you feel passive? Make a fist. Does it feel, weak?... The idea that pink might make you weak is actually science, kinda."

In the 1960s, scientist Alexander Schauss wanted to find out if color could reverse a person's mental state. He conducted a series of experiments and observations that compared people's reactions to the colors pink and blue. He found that a bright Pepto Bismol pink environment lowered his own blood pressure, pulse and heart when he viewed the shade. He thought it could impact human aggression, and Schauss tested his theory on March 1, 1979 at the U.S. Naval Correctional Facility in Seattle, Washington.

"It was a huge success," Thuras says, prompting penal systems around the country to start painting their prison walls pink, including a juvenile detention center in San Bernardino, California.

Outside of prisons, the psychology of pink has applied to sports. At Iowa Hawkeyes's Kinnick Stadium, the walls of the visiting team locker room were once painted pink. According to the Daily Iowan, former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry believed pink was a relaxing color, and although they have been painted over, opponents were once struck by these "unique surroundings in a hostile environment."

As ATTN: previously reported, more than 2.4 million people in the U.S. live behind bars. Since the 1960s the prison population in the U.S. has risen steadily, even during periods where the crime rate has dropped, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Due to reports of abuse in the past several years, there has been an increasing pressure to reform the prison system and redesign how America incarcerates inmates.

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