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Sedgwick County sheriff defends toilet paper rationing at jail

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at 12:40 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at 10:03 a.m.

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From the perspective of some Sedgwick County Jail inmates, it’s the toilet paper protest.

From the perspective of Sheriff Jeff Easter, it’s a reasonable way to control expenses and limit damage.

Through letters to The Eagle, Sedgwick County Jail inmates are complaining of what they say is unfair rationing that limits them to a roll of TP a week.

If they use it up before they get a new roll, they say, they get charged $1.18 a roll at the commissary, and some don’t have the money.

The inmates are framing it as a violation of their rights.

But Easter said the rationing is necessary to help keep inmates from using toilet paper in wasteful and damaging ways. Some inmates wet down their toilet paper and plaster walls, ceilings and vents with it. They use it to seal vents to keep tobacco or marijuana (it gets smuggled in) smoke from seeping out. They will stuff a whole roll down the toilet to stop it up. They will line their cell floor with toilet paper.

Just for the supplies alone, “It costs taxpayers $100,000 a year for toilet paper,” Easter said.

By the way, the sheriff said, the jail uses Charmin. “It’s good quality toilet paper,” he said.

According to the letters, on the night of May 31 jail staff got inmates out of their beds and seized toilet paper, for redistribution, and that beginning June 1 inmates will be limited to one roll per week.

Keep in mind, Easter said, that the toilet paper is not the inmates’ to begin with.

The inmates said they use the toilet paper not just for the obvious reason but as napkins and to wipe up spills and blow noses. One letter called the rationing a violation of the American Disability Act, because someone with a disability has to use an “abundant amount” of toilet paper, and a violation of the constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

“This is clearly extortion … ,” one letter said.

One letter bore 35 signatures, another 26.

Easter said that if an inmate is indigent, disabled or ill and needs more TP, the jail will find a way to help him.

Easter, who is early in his first term as sheriff, said one thing his administration has done for inmates is replace mattresses that were in poor shape.

“There are some things we’ve done in here to accommodate them, but you don’t hear that,” he said.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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