Skip to main content
Remembering Oak Ridge

Personal Expression

Patients playing cards

Oak Ridge patients playng cards, 1960s

Labelled shelves in storage room on Ward 08

Labelled storage shelves on Ward 08, 2014


There was no uniform for patients of the Oak Ridge division per se. Clothing was, however, seen as a quality-of-life issue by the administration and was therefore regulated.  

Provided Clothing

Patients who were unable to purchase their own were provided with clothing by the Hospital. They were permitted to label garments that were worn close to the skin for personal wear while outerwear items were shared on a use-as-needed basis across the ward.

The standard list of clothing articles made available to patients included:

  • Shoes
  • Shirts
  • Trousers
  • Socks
  • Under shorts
  • T-shirts or undershirts
  • Winter hat
  • Gloves or mitts
  • Winter coat
  • Spring coat
  • Galoshes
  • Summer hat

The Patient Dress Code

Similar to the uniform policies for staff at Oak Ridge, patients were expected to be dressed such that their clothing was clean, in good repair, and properly fitted. Both articles provided by the Hospital and that purchased by the patient himself was also expected to "meet a reasonable community standard" (Patient dress code, 2008, p. 1).

More specific regulations further restricted the choice of garments a patient selected. For example, Oak Ridge patients were not permitted to wear metal-toed shoes; pants, shorts, or skirts that exposed the buttocks or crotch areas; transparent fabrics that revealed the skin; or items that significantly changed their appearance. This latter category included wigs, excessive makeup, and even sunglasses when indoors or hats that covered the eyes. When outside of their rooms, patients were expected to be clothed.

Personal Grooming

Disposable razors and, in later years, electric razors were provided for patient use on the wards. These items were not permitted in individual patient rooms and were counted daily by Ward staff during the night shift.

A strict policy governed the distribution of razors, their use, and their collection. In addition, while patients were enouraged to shave themselves, Oak Ridge policy restricted such activities if it was considered a risk to the individual patient or others. In such cases, staff was trained to shave the patient. Similarly, depending on their risk assessment in terms of self-harming or outwardly aggressive behaviour, a patient could be required to have their nails trimmed such that they did not extend beyond the tip of their fingers or toes.  

Patient room with personal belongings

Patient room showing personal belongings, 1990

A Room of One's Own

Patients at Oak Ridge were assigned their own room. Regardless of the ward, the general arrangement of these spaces included a steel door entry from the hallway, a barred window looking out onto the yard, an open toilet, a sink, and a standard set of furniture:

  • 1 bed and mattress
  • 1 desk
  • 1 chair

In later years - and dependent on individual ward policies and the patient's individual risk assessment, Oak Ridge also made available wall-mounted bookcases, window coverings, privacy curtains for the door, and a maximum of two storage bins. Beyond this, they were permitted to personalize the rooms - within certain limits.

Personal Possessions

In general, Oak Ridge patients were permitted to keep some personal items within their room including furniture, clothing, materials for reading or writing, electronic equipment, toiletries, and over-the-counter medications. They could also paste magazine clippings, artwork, or even pornography to their walls.


Permission to keep one's personal possessions with their room was subject to individual ward regulations, personal risk assessments, and general safety concerns (including fire, health, and security).   

The list of restricted contraband included items that could be used as weapons or posed a risk to the patient or other as well as cameras, video or audio recording equipment, radio scanners, pagers, and cell phones.  

By Jennifer L. Bazar

Page Last Updated: June 4, 2015


Patient dress code. (2008, January 16). Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene Operational Policy: Forensic Division, Oak Ridge Site.

Personal possessions and room furnishings. (2008, October). Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene Operational Policy: Forensic Division, Oak Ridge Facility.

Shaving and razors. (2007, June). Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene Operational Policy: Forensic Division, Oak Ridge Site.

To Cite this Page

Bazar, J. L. (2015). Personal expression. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. Retrieved from