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COLUMBIANA COUNTY JAIL Trying to get a handle on inmates' toilet problem



Published: Fri, August 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



An inmate who is caught flushing inappropriate items can face a charge of vandalism.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- The toilet habits of some Columbiana County jail inmates are costing the county money.

Officials say some prisoners at the county jail in Center Township are flushing pillowcases, sheets, plastic wrappers and uniforms down the toilets in their cells.

The items are hampering the operation of the sewage treatment plant that serves the lockup, county Engineer Bert Dawson said.

County workers have had to go to the treatment plant about once a month to remove the items, Dawson said.

"We're looking at some fashion in which to address it," Commissioner Dave Cranmer said Thursday.

The solution may involve the county's having to buy a device to filter or remove the items before they reach the plant, Cranmer said.

"Inmates play games and try to disrupt services. That's the nature of the beast," said Warden Hank Escola, who runs the jail for CiviGenics Inc., the private company hired by the county to oversee the lockup.

Widespread problem

Virtually every jail and prison has the same problem, Escola said.

Jail officials monitor inmates to prevent them from flushing things they shouldn't.

"We have deterred it," but it's virtually impossible to prevent entirely, Escola said.

If caught, inmates can be charged with vandalism. But it's difficult to nab them in the act. Escola could recall no inmate's having been charged recently for the activity.

Many lockups solve the problem by install a shredding device on their sewage systems that grind up sheets and other items, Escola said.

There's a state grant available to buy such a machine, he added.

"I'm not sure that's the best way to go," said Commissioner President Jim Hoppel.

The county jail's system probably could not use a shredding device because the system relies on a biological process to break down waste, Cranmer said.

Linens, plastic and other material, even if ground up, would hinder the system's operation.

For that reason, the county may have to buy equipment that would trap and remove items that shouldn't be in the system, Cranmer explained.

He was uncertain how much such equipment would cost.




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