#115 Cleaning Prison bathrooms (retro)

April 1, 2010 at 2:30 am Leave a comment

Cleaning Prison Bathrooms

Have I ever talked about this?

If not, then it’s something worth talking about. I wanted to bring this up because I had an email on this, and figured this might be something worth talking about today. There are a lot of thoughts that might come in your head when you think of a prison bathroom, most of them being very negative. I want to see if we can talk about some of these things and hopefully give you some insight of how your loved one might be doing.

In thinking on this, I have to go back and remember all the prison bathrooms I was in, and have to include even the jail cell I spent 17 months in. When I factor all those in, I get a variety of different bathrooms, meaning also that every prison is different in one way or another.

When it comes to inmates cleaning the bathrooms, and let me add too, showers, since most times they are put together. Many of you out there might have the idea that prison bathrooms are filthy, dirty and something you would not touch with a 50 foot pole. Well, from my experience, that is not quite true.

Think about it for a moment, would you use your bathroom if it had not been cleaned for months? Of course not, you’d clean it up, for two reasons. One, you don’t want others to see how dirty you keep your bathroom, and two, you’d clean it for your sake of having a clean bathroom. So consider the same thing for inmates.

When I was in county jail, I had a cell that included a shower, toilet and sink. Because I was the only person to use it, it was then my responsibility to clean it. It wasn’t like they MADE me do it, but I realized if I am going to be using the toilet, sink and shower, then I needed to make sure that it was clean for me.

When I was cleaning in my cell, the officers of county jail gave me some scrubbing powder, a mop, a toilet brush and a bucket of hot water. I think it was once a week, and usually at night, after “business” hours of the jail were over. Normally this might seem as a tedious chore, but I really think that the change of pace was actually welcomed to some of the seg cell inmates…including myself. It just gave you something to do, to take your mind off jail, and you also got a sense of pride in taking care of your immediate surroundings.

When I went to prison, the first stop in my incarceration was Craven Correctional, which was a processing prison, as I shared in my “Grades of Honor” books. That prison was much different from the single cell I was in, because I went from a single cell with a bathroom and shower to a dorm with about 60 guys and an open shower…talk about culture shock.

Cleaning a dorm requires a number of inmates to do the job, and in the prisons I was in there were three basic items used in cleaning: the pink, the blue and the yellow. I would find out that throughout my time in NC prisons, these were the basic three elements of cleaning, with use also of scrubbing powder. The liquids came in tall plastic bottles and issued to inmates at certain times of the day. You could not just go and get it, it had to be assigned to you. In some prisons there are dorm janitors that are responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, but on some cams, they have to “draft” inmates to do the job. Such was the case at Craven, but for the other camps, there are designated inmates whose job it was to clean the prison bathroom of the dorms they resided in.

I’ll try to break down those three liquids as best I can to tell you what they are for:

The Yellow: this liquid is basically the Tile and Grout bottle, used on the shower walls and shower floors It was kinda dull yellow in color, kinda like lemonade.

The Pink: this was the all purpose cleaner, used on the toilets, sinks and shower mats. Of the three this is the most used by far. Sometimes inmates will even use this instead of the yellow stuff on the tiles.

The Blue: you can probably guess what this is simply because of the color. Just as Windex and those other glass cleaners are blue, so is this. This is basically a window cleaner, which is odd because many prisons don’t technically have “glass”. Many prisons have highly polished reflections, and they are not the same as a mirror. You can’t get an honest to goodness look at yourself. If a mirror is HDTV, then what many prisons have is like analog.

In every prison I have been in, inmates are issues gloves for sanitary purposes, or can request one. I remember a situation at Pasquotank where I had to write up an officer who was being a smart aleck about some of us, and she started getting a little too… what’s the word… uppity.

Sometimes there are officers who like to lord over inmates, and I don’t take too kindly to that. I have no problem doing what they tell me to do, if it is reasonable. But some officers get stuck up and think that if they say jump, we have to ask “how high”.

Anyway, she threatened that if she wanted to she could find something to write us up on, and I remember disagreeing with that. I remember her saying to me, “you’re going to mess up sometime, and when you do, I will write you up”. That sounded like a threat to me.

So I took her up on the challenge by making her responsible for every detail of my cleanup. As a dorm janitor, I was responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, but we also had to ask the officer for plastic gloves. I could have cleaned the bathrooms without one, as most times inmates do (that I knew) but she wanted to be picky with me, so I can do the same.

I told her we needed gloves, and she said she would look into it. She didn’t go get them at that moment, so I decided not to clean until she did. This went on for awhile and when an officer asked why we had not cleaned the bathroom, I made her accountable by saying that we asked the officer for gloves and she never got them for us.

In fact, we asked several times and she never got them. I didn’t mind not cleaning the bathroom at the time, I could always do it later, but I wanted to make a point. I didn’t like the idea of anybody lording over us like servants. Yes we were inmates, but I was not going to let somebody threaten me like that. Mind you, I never cursed or anything like that to any officer during my time in prison. I knew I would get nowhere that way, so I had to use the rules to my advantage.

That officer was directly responsible for our delay, because she was negligent in giving us the plastic gloves we requested, and I held her accountable for that. Hours later I think a sergeant came in and wanted to know why we had been lazy in our work. I explained to him that we requested gloves from the officer and were never given them. Again, I COULD have cleaned it without gloves, but I was making a point. The sergeant had to get an officer to get us gloves so we could finish cleaning, because the officer originally in charge had delayed so long that the shifts changed and she was gone for the day. I followed up the situation with a grievance, letting the prison know that she was in error…not me.

Now, I say all that because I understand that on some prisons, they don’t give you plastic gloves, or toilet wands and the like. The question then is asked…is this sanitary? Think about it, is it sanitary if inmates are not given the proper equipment to clean a toilet or a shower? If I had to list all the items I have used to clean up while in prison, the would include: scrubbing powder (like Ajax or Comet), a toilet brush, plastic gloves, all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, tile and grout cleaner, mop, bucket with hot water, and cleaning towels, as well as a broom and that thingy you sweep it up in.

But not every prison is like that, so you’d have to wonder what are the limits to inmate sanitation? It is inhumane to have inmates clean a toilet with a rag and bare hands? Are inmates getting sick from this, and then passing it along from one inmate to another? If so this is a major problem because the officers that work there are almost sure to catch it too. Remember, officers are often in the face of a lot of these inmates, and can easily catch what they have IF there is something spreading.

For that reason, I might argue that if a prison is not allowing inmates to take care of their toilets and bathrooms in a humane way, they not only are ignoring the inmates, but also the officers that work there as well. It is all to easy for a novice to read part of this and think, “so what, I don’t care if those criminals can’t clean their toilets! Serves them right”

But that is stupid to say. That same inmate that gets sick because of poor sanitation can spread that same illness to an officer that works in that dorm. You might not care about that inmate, but what of the officer, who is just doing his or her job? In cases like this, you cannot separate the two. You cannot mistreat the inmate and think it won’t spill over to the employees.

An inmate in such a situation can do a few things, one, talk to an officer. It has to start there. Sometimes a prison has to ban certain things from inmates because some jerk tried to use it for something other than what it was intended. It happens a lot. Maybe some of the items that were used were taken away because of inmate abuse. I don’t know.

But if that is not the case, there needs to be a clear understanding of what is sanitary and humane. If the inmate is not satisfied, he can write a grievance. If he is still not satisfied, he can write outside the prison walls for answers. But I counter that by saying that often times you don’t want to “rock the boat” as some say. Yet I come back against myself to say, “what inmate would argue against sanitation”?

If it were me, in that situation, and knowing myself, I would have written a grievance to at least get some toilet wands to scrub the toilet. If all they gave me was gloves, toilet brush and some scrubbing powder (or all purpose cleaner instead) I would be cool with that. I am not expecting a maid to come by and clean it for me, but I would like to have the humane decency to clean it like a human being would instead of a caveman.

Anyway, there are many stories I can tell about prison bathrooms and showers, but I’ll end it here for a moment. It’s noontime here, so I gotta find some lunch…after I clean the bathroom..

(don’t worry, I’ll wash my hands!)


Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#114 Prison talk: does hope exist? #116 Prison Talk and Parole Boards (retro)

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