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.”
Filed under: Crime and punishment