SPF in the BOP

I recently picked up on the technical meaning of the numbers following the acronym SPF – Sun Protective Factor. An SPF of 15 would imply that the sunscreen provides protection for 15 times longer than going without. If your skin could last ten minutes in direct sunlight before burning, now you can go one hundred and fifty minutes. This news excited absolutely no one here other than yours truly.

After arriving at FPC Yankton in June of 2021 I purchased sunscreen from commissary. Since then I’ve seen roughly five other bottles on the entire compound. It’s not at the top of most priority lists. “Why in the world would I buy a bottle of sunscreen when I could have two spicy summer sausage beef logs instead?” is a likely refrain. Of course, the sunscreen is expired but to expect anything else would have been foolish on my part. The BOP (Bureau of Prisons) has significant leeway when it comes to expiration dates, and hold the door if a product includes a best-by date. “Excuse me, officer, the pepperoni I purchased this morning expired 5 months ago.” “Let me see that. Yep, there it is. It doesn’t have an expiration date, just the date it’s best-by. You’re good to go, Laney. Enjoy.”

So here I am with my expired sunscreen, $7.65 Locs brand prison sunglasses and a one size fits all baseball hat. I care about sun protection. I have no interest in finding myself with skin cancer, sun spots or sun burn. On the other end of the spectrum, you have guys who go out to the blacktop handball court on the days it’s roasting outside. The court is HOT and a row of benches conveniently face south. This crews strolls out there mid-afternoon with no sunglasses, no hats, no sunscreen and bakes in the sun for hours. It’s the prison equivalent of a group of iguanas warming themselves on rocks in the afternoon sun except you’re definitely not on a beach in Mexico.

On the work detail front, the Horticulture department graciously provides it’s laborers with sun hats. A grand total of two of us use them. These are not wide-brimmed, traditional sun hats. Picture something more like what Gilligan wore in Gilligan’s Island and make it 100% cotton. That said, they work far better than nothing. I rock that beauty ever single day I work, even though I know I’m teeing myself up for mild ridicule as this hat is the antithesis of swagger. “Hey, there goes safari Scott wearing his fancy safari hat, what are you gardening today, bud?”

This hat is hands down the nerdiest and best thing I get to wear here, next to my government issue winter jacket that was three sizes too large. Like they say, it is what it is. The sun hat and winter jacket may not be ideal, but they are available and effective. You have to make do with what you have. Expired sunscreen, cotton khakis, leather steel toe boots and a safari hat covered in sweat and dirt.

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