WESTOVER STAFF WRITER WILLIAM F. ZORZI JR. CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WESTOVER -- A men's softball team that dresses in women's clothing was hired to entertain inmates at the all-male Eastern Correctional Institution, prompting complaints from some inmates who said the show was in poor taste and a waste of money.
The California Cuties, a group that bills itself as "the world's funniest softball team," was paid $750 from the prison Inmate Welfare Fund to play inmate teams and to perform four shows June 18 at the Eastern Shore facility near here.
Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the four-man team was hired at the request of inmates and with the permission of ECI officials.
"It certainly was not intended to offend anyone," Sergeant Shipley said. "It was meant to entertain the inmates."
The $750 fee came from profits generated at the prison commissary. Inmates decide how to spend profits from such items as stationery, soap, snacks and cigarettes sold in the store.
"The administration was aware of no complaints prior to the events, and it was viewed as a very economical form of activity for the entire inmate population," Sergeant Shipley said.
Taylor A. "J. R." Evans, an inmate serving a 13-year term for burglary, called the shows "a joke" and said other inmates were unhappy with how the money was used.
"We wanted to see live women, not men in dresses," he said.
Evans said that after the California Cuties won softball games against inmate teams, the players performed a comedy routine that was often lewd and filled with references to homosexuality.
He said the Cuties wore women's clothing, wigs and oversize falsies. During the show, he said, several of the performers tore off their dresses to reveal bikini briefs and bras.
One inmate wrote a letter to The Sun saying he felt corrections officials sent "a highly immoral lesson" to ECI's 2,583 prisoners by allowing the performances.
Another inmate, who asked not to be identified, said he welcomed the entertainment. "At least they came in here and made an attempt to brighten up some lives," he said.
In 1988, Wisconsin corrections officials said the California Cuties could perform a scheduled show at Waupan State Prison only if they did not wear women's clothing.
The California Cuties, based in Lakewood, Calif., could not be reached for comment.