Idle hands are the Devil’s playground

This is not an important story. It just piqued my interest, so I pass it on to you:

Bright orange jail uniforms, sheets and other items from San Mateo County’s main lockup are going down the toilet by the hundreds, damaging a pumping station and threatening the Redwood City sewage system, a waste management agency says.

The agency has billed the county $700,000 for increased maintenance and to fix damage it says has been caused by inmates at the Maguire jail in downtown Redwood City flushing clothes, linen, plastic bags and toothbrushes regularly since at least 2004.

“We have literally hundreds of garments — probably thousands of garments — that have ‘San Mateo County Jail, Maguire Facility’ on them,” said Dan Child, general manager for the South Bayside Systems Authority, a publicly owned regional wastewater treatment system that handles sewage for several Peninsula cities, including Redwood City.

“It’s approximately a $30,000-a-month problem right now,” Child said. “It’s something we need to find a solution for the long term.”

The material clogged a grinder and broke a shaft at the pumping station about two years ago, Child said. After that, the agency installed protective grates at the station that have to be cleaned by hand to prevent sewage from backing up, potentially into people’s homes and businesses, he said.

At one point in the winter of 2006, the system was taxed to the point where all backup pumps were needed to keep the sewage flowing, Child said.

“That’s when we get really nervous,” he said.

County officials acknowledge there is a problem, but some question the accuracy of the $700,000 bill and whether all the material gumming up the works is coming from the jail.


Overcrowding at the jail, which is designed to hold 688 inmates but now houses about 1,050, is complicating efforts to control clothing inventories and monitor inmates, Munks said.

“The more crowded it is, the greater the ratio of inmates to staff,” he said. “It just makes it more difficult in terms of watching these guys all the time and (keeping) track of every item of clothing, whether it’s a sheet or pillowcase or jumpsuit.”

Inmates flush their telltale orange jail clothing or other items down the toilet as a means of rebellion, Munks said.

“It’s just a way to mess with the system,” he said. “It’s kind of like vandalism. It’s kind of a way to cause problems for the authorities that they perceive as being the reason why they are there.”

Such antics are not new, said Child, who once worked on a wastewater treatment system for a juvenile hall in Provo, Utah.

“They actually flushed pillows down the toilet there,” Child said.

It takes more than one flush to get a bedsheet down a toilet, he said. But then, prisoners have time on their hands.

“Inmates, they obviously can become a little bored, or whatever it is,” Child said. “It’s a common problem in jails cross the country.”


6 Responses

  1. “Inmates, they obviously can become a little bored, or whatever it is,” Child said. “It’s a common problem in jails cross the country.”

    Maybe we can setup Roman style gladiatorial rings and have the inmates deathmatch each other. That should alleviate their boredom quickly. As a motivation issue, whoever wins a round gets to be free, although perhaps with a free one way passage to some place like England for example.

    Now that’ll be a real popular solution, I tell ya, with our foreign buddies.

    This is of course, only half kidding.

  2. Oh ya, we can do the same with GitMo and the useless guys there that has been there for 3 years and don’t know jack about what new things are on. Humane as they say, some of them won’t have to stay in gitMo forever and be abused by the Ameris as you know.

  3. Stick those shlubs outside picking up roadside trash (and sorting the recyclables), working a crop field, or some other similarly manually-intensive, day-long task and they won’t have the energy to vandalize the community plumbing. (If picking cotton was good enough for my law-abiding in-laws & grandparents, then it’s certainly good enough for inmates.)

    And if they’re determined to not have uniforms or bed linens, then fine… Remove all fabric items. Let ’em roam around sans clothing and sleep on bare mattresses. Less load on the taxpayers and less opportunity for misbehaving.

    It’s time to start treating jailbound criminals like, well, jailbound criminals. No more TV. No more crunchy peanut butter. No more weight rooms or basketball courts. No more cigarettes. Maybe if we revert back to jails & prisons being truly undesirable places to be, the idea of being sent there will once again be a deterrent.

  4. You’re a man after my own heart, Rob…. Why is this hard? It wouldn’t have been for my parents, and it wouldn’t have been for me! Mess around with your sheets, and you lose your sheets, baby. Same with your orange uniform…..

    Who’s that “baloney-sandwich and tents” sheriff in Arizona? He could fix this so fast you’d never know there had been a problem.

  5. Earl, you’re thinking of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

    This is basic parenting… Abuse a privilege, lose that privilege.

  6. Rob,

    After implementing your suggestions re. textiles, I would turn on the air conditioners.

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