"You Have to Plunge the Phone" -- Inmates Use Toilets as Phones

Inmates at some jails and prisons around the United States have discovered that the water pipes between the toilets in some facilities are connected. With a few alterations, a toilet can be converted into a phone. Truthdig's Chris Hedges reports from a jail in New Jersey:

“You have to plunge the phone,” explains Pabey, a 30-year-old Latina who has black, short curly hair with raspberry streaks.

“You take a piece of cloth,” says Blount, a small, wispy African-American in her 40s. “You take the water out [of the bowl]. You keep pumpin’ the water out until it get lower. Then you take the little cup or somethin’. You take a little sock or a little cloth or somethin’. You pump it out with the cloth, the water out. And as you’re doin’ that it’s the water’s going out. It’s goin’, it’s goin’. It don’t take but like about a minute.”

“But like three seconds,” Pabey says.

“Yeah, it don’t take that long,” Blount says. “You scoop the rest of the water.”

“With [empty toilet paper] rolls you make a mic,” Pabey says. Some prisoners prefer to curl up the book of jail regulations and stuff that into the drained toilet.

To send or receive a call, a male prisoner one or two floors below must similarly prepare a bowl phone. It is difficult for the parties to hear each other if they are separated by more than two floors.

To keep the lines of communication open, bowl phones are seldom used as toilets and rarely are flushed. Cells designated by prisoners become, in essence, public phone booths, known by their cell numbers.


(Image: Mr. Fish)

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