Agency cuts back on toilet paper for inmates

With the state of Texas facing a $9.9 billion budget shortfall, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been forced to undertake a number of cuts in many areas.

The 1st of those cuts have hit home for the inmate population, as inmates now are being supplied with a roll of toilet paper once every 2 weeks as opposed to 1 roll per week.

The toilet paper situation has caused some inmates to voice their opinions.

"Tissue paper is an essential necessity and TDCJ is going to deny someone of that necessity with this insane logic that it will save money. Can you say lawsuit?" wrote Robert Mudd, an inmate at the Ellis Unit.

"Of course, there is an underside to every great idea," wrote inmate John Blackwell, also at the Ellis Unit. "Now there will be more tax money needed for all torn sheets, underwear, socks and all other cloth objects. Not to mention the many extra hours of plumbing at the end of this two-week time frame. I'm not going to go into the sanitary side of this money-saving plan."

TDCJ spokesman Larry Todd said the current budget crunch has caused the agency to put the squeeze on toilet paper.

"We've been instructed to be as conservative as possible with any  expenditures. We've asked all of our wardens to make sure we are not wasting any of our assets and that includes the various supplies like toilet paper," he said. "We have to operate as efficiently as possible. We are in a 'waste not, want not' mode and that includes all of our supplies."

The amount of money that would be saved by the toilet paper cutbacks is not immediately known.

"We haven't done a budget analysis; we're just using common sense on it," Todd said. "This does, however, point to the seriousness of the reduction of supplies."

The toilet paper used by inmates is described as being "not the soft and cuddly content that one would find at a supermarket."

"The toilet paper given to inmates is not the more expensive soft and supple quality," Todd said. "It is, however, the type of paper that we purchase because of the low bid."

Todd said the agency will not sacrifice sanitary conditions in an attempt to save money.

"We certainly understand the need for sanitation, and we will not let a lack of toilet paper become a health issue," he said.

Some inmates say health issues are the very reason they need more than one roll of toilet paper every 2 weeks.

"What the new rule hasn't taken into account is that there are inmates that have special needs as far as toilet paper is concerned," wrote Claude Rinehart, an inmate at the Ellis Unit. "There are a good number of inmates that take medications that cause them to use the commode three or four times a day. There are older inmates that nature talks with more often than the young."

Todd said the budget situation, barring any unforeseen changes, will continue to make for some uncomfortable situations throughout the agency.

"Of course, our population is currently 147,839 (inmate), and if you take one roll of toilet paper for each of them every 2 weeks, that's still a lot of money. We shall not waste anything nor any time," he said. "The big cuts to the budget have yet to come. However, we don't anticipate future budget cuts to wipe out the toilet paper supply."