Can You Have Glasses In Prison?

Learning that you are going to need glasses to correct your vision wasn’t always accepted in popular and fashionable circles. The times have changed as more and more people are choosing to take an active role in their health. The times of feeling like part of a secret society have adapted to become a new type of standard acceptance. The simplicity that comes from correcting vision issues is outstanding. Many can simply wear prescription glasses or obtain reading glasses to help lessen the strain placed on the eyes.

Once it has been determined that you need glasses to see correctly, you are far from surprised at the cost of getting an eye exam and prescription glasses. The eyewear industry has the benefit of supplying a selection and prince range of frames;however, finding the right frame for your face shape and style can be challenging. Luckily, we are able to try on a pair and make a choice.

Unfortunately, wearing glasses while incarcerated in prison has an entirely different set of challenges that many in the free world would never have to encounter. The best way to pass the time when you are locked up is to read. If you are unable to read, the time seems to go by very slowly. There are several ways to get glasses for an inmate-some are time- consuming, while others are much simpler.

Can you have glasses in prison?

You are allowed to have glasses in prison, but there are some rules and requirements that are imposed to ensure safety and correlation. It is much easier to enter the prison system with glasses than it is to start the process to get them while in prison. It can be challenging but is well worth it.

Many people do not realize that the prison system is required to provide you with a pair of glasses if they have been prescribed to you. The courts have ruled that denying a prisoner corrective eyewear is a violation of the Eighth Amendment that protects you from any punishment that is considered cruel or unusual. The glasses provided are a far cry from stylish; however, they are made according to your prescription requirements.

The process of getting an appointment with an eye doctor is not without complications. The process varies from the facility, prison type, security levels, and if the prison is state-run or private. Each prison system will have the basic rules that appear to be consensual with all prisons; these rules are:

  • They can’t be valued at more than $100
  • They can’t be mirrored or transitional lenses, unless medically necessary
  • They can’t have any embellishments
  • The frames must be black or brown

The requirement of frame materials will vary depending on the security levels of the prison.  In maximum- security prisons, only plastic frames are allowed, whereas minimum security prisons will allow metal or plastic frames. Since different prisons have different rules regarding glasses, it is best to check with the medical department of the particular prison to find out the rules.

How does an inmate get glasses?

Getting glasses as an inmate can be confusing. How an inmate gets glasses is based on the prison they are incarcerated in. Generally, jails and prisons will allow you to keep the glasses you are already wearing  when you are arrested and incarcerated. You are entitled to keep them as long as they meet the prison’s specific requirements on value, material, and appearance. If the glasses are not in the best condition, you might not be allowed to keep them. This means that if there are predominant scratches or any breakage in the glasses, they will be deemed unsafe, and you will not be allowed to have them in prison.

If you don’t have glasses already, the process of getting them can be lengthy. You can go months without receiving glasses. If you have the money, you can get an appointment with an eye doctor and order a pair of glasses from a limited section of approved vendors. If you are indigent and can’t afford an appointment or to buy a pair, the state will provide you a pair of “state glasses” as long as an optometrist prescribes them, and the prescription is valid.These glasses are the typical ugly glasses that many inmates have made jokes around. They are cheap, plastic, and unisex. The vendors that prisons use are often the same for the military. The glasses are meant to be simple and conforming. This helps to eliminate aggression or jealousy within the inmates.

Some prisons allow you to have your family send you a pair of glasses, as long as they meet the requirements. Keep in mind that some prisons consider the receipt of glasses through personal mail as contraband, which is any property or goods that are prohibited by the prison. Receiving contraband has its own set of repercussions, such as parole denial, solitary confinement, and the loss of good time. It is not worth the penalties for getting a pair of glasses the easier and faster way.

If you have to replace a pair of broken glasses while you are incarcerated, the rules are the same. You can either see the eye doctor and order frames through the state, have a family member or friend mail you a new pair, or receive the state’s glasses. In most prisons, if your parole hearing is within two months, you will be denied glasses.

What about reading glasses?

As we get older, the natural lenses in our eyes become less flexible. They have more difficulty focusing on things that are in close range. If you notice that you are having to hold items closer to reduce the blur, or you get a headache when trying to read, you might need reading glasses. The best way to pass the time in prison is to read, but if you cannot see well enough, it can be difficult or cause painful headaches.

Reading glasses do not require a prescription and can be available in a number of ways. Most prisons have reading glasses available through commissary.  If buying a pair of reading glasses is not available through commissary, or you do not have the money to afford the glasses, a family member can send a pair in the mail. If an inmate doesn’t have anyone that can send them a pair, they can see the eye doctor. The process of getting an appointment with an eye doctor while in prison can be lengthy and expensive.

Inmates become very creative when it comes to getting what they need while in prison. Many inmates have received reading glasses from other inmates that are getting released or by buying a pair from another inmate who needs the money more than the glasses. This is not abiding by the rules or regulations of prisons. The prison system is designed to ensure that the only property owned by an inmate is either owned before entering the prison and is acceptable or is purchased through commissary.

Why is reading important in prison?

Reading provides more than just a past time hobby, it provides a way for inmates to fill their minds with possibilities of a good future. For many, reading is a method of personal and professional development. The start of an education begins with reading and continues to be the backbone to future educational and business opportunities.

The fact that the literacy levels of inmates in alarmingly low is questioned when a crime is committed.  There is a strong correlation between illiteracy and criminal actions. Many could argue that by helping inmates increase their reading and comprehension capabilities, they are providing a strong tool to reduce recidivism.

Reading in prison is important in the rehabilitation process. Many inmates have a diminished literacy level and it is vital that they are able to develop their literacy levels while in prison. The benefits of reading will affect an inmates’ life in positive ways. With access to reading material, inmates are developing a strong vocabulary that will help them be functioning members of the community.


One of the luxuries of life that an inmate can still participate in is reading. Reading is an excellent way to pass the time and gain valuable information. Gaining vocabulary and education through reading has been shown to reduce recidivism rates. The intention of prison is to rehabilitate and create a stable foundation for inmates to reintegrate into the free World.

Just because you are incarcerated, doesn’t mean that your visual health needs to suffer further issues while in prison. Unattended vision problems can affect the eyes themselves and can lead to further visual degeneration. It is vital for a person’s health to maintain their vision for as long as possible.

It is important to understand that whatever items you bring in with you as your personal property needs to leave with you. The prison system is meticulous with this and will check your incoming inventory list against the inventory you leave with. It makes it harder for an inmate to obtain property that they either did not bring in with them or purchase from commissary.

Wearing glasses is not an option but rather a necessity for most. Prescription eyeglasses are often required to improve your vision and quality of life in prison or out in the free World. It is a challenge to get glasses in prison but is worth it to be able to see better and read without issues.

Leave a Comment