Kristin Davis: One Roll of Toilet Paper A Week, Five Maxi Pads Per Month

Can you imagine only having one roll of toilet paper for the entire week?
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Kristin Davis
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Can you imagine only having one roll of toilet paper for the entire week?

I am an inmate under the custody of Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the Federal Government has allotted us one roll of toilet paper, per inmate, for the week. To add insult to injury, they are also rationing out maxi-pads and giving each inmate five per month.

The way this works is every week a staff member comes to each cell and issues each of us our one roll of toilet paper. They also count our existing rolls and if we have one already, then we don't get another one. And this is our toilet paper for the week. If we run out, we are not given anymore and the officers on duty have no access to additional supplies. 

This, obviously, presents a bit of a problem as one roll of toilet paper doesn't go very far. Last week my cellmates and I ran out of our allotted toilet paper in four days. We had to go around begging our neighbors for extra paper and ended up trading top ramen for two extra rolls.

It's completely dehumanizing for me to have to ration a certain number of toilet tissue squares to make sure my roll lasts a week. I cannot control my body functions and trying to regulate them only makes things worse.

What am I suppose to wipe my tushy with when I run out??? 

We don't have things like Kleenex, paper towels or napkins so toilet paper is our only option for using the bathroom or blowing our nose. We actually use it in place of every other paper product and as a sponge since we don't have those either.

Before I came to prison I was under the misguided notion that the Federal Government provided for the needs of the inmates. I thought my money was going to be used for frivolous expenditures like Oreos and Cheez-its and I wouldn't have to worry about the basics like shampoo or deodorant and now toilet paper.

 Boy, was I wrong.

 When you first get to prison, the government gives you your initial "bedroll" which consists of your sheets, pillowcases, towels and 2 prison work outfits including sports-bras, panties and socks (and one pair of awful steel toed boots). They also give you a starter toiletry kit, which is just a toothbrush, toothpaste and small bar of soap.

And this is the start and end of what the government actually provides. It is a one-time extraordinarily minimal issuance.

All of my real basics such as deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and laundry detergent are purchased by me.

These things are all for sale at an extremely inflated rate in our commissary.A bar of Dove soap for $2.00 or the "expensive" laundry detergent (Gain) for $7.00 are little luxuries that I am so appreciative of because they make me feel clean and normal and remind me that I am not a prisoner, I am a person.

And really if I didn't purchase these things -- I wouldn't have any deodorant or be able to wash myself or my clothes because we are not given these things. Our commissary recently started selling Charmin toilet paper for $7.00 a 6-pack, which makes sense now considering the ongoing rations on toilet paper and the profit being made from these sales. For me, this is a wonderful extravagance because it saves me from worrying about how I am wiping my tushy and it feels better then the 1-ply paper the BOP provides.

 But not everyone in here can afford to buy these things.Many of the women here do not get outside financial support and most prison jobs pay .12 cents per hour so they can barely afford the most basic of items.

My prison job, which is "pm yard" (I scoop goose poop here in Dublin) pays me $1.92 per month. This is not even enough for the cheapest shampoo sold here -- Suave.

 But luckily bartering is alive and well in the prison system. There are women who make crafts and you can buy crocheted blankets or a beaded earrings for $15-30 dollars. There are women who cook and a brownie is about $2.00 and a tamale (this is California) is $1.00. There are even beauty services available such as pedicures or threading. 

You can get your laundry done with ironing for about $20 per month. Each week you get a bill for the total amount of what you have purchased and the items the biller wants from commissary. I then buy these items and give them to the person and the bill is paid.

Without this hustle, most of the women here would go without the things that are essential to normal hygiene.

We take this for granted in the real world where we can buy whatever we want, whenever we want. We throw things away hardly used or eaten. Here in prison - everything is valuable and appreciated because we literally have nothing.

 The BOP gets paid $30,619.85 per year to incarcerate an inmate -- I am wondering where this money goes?

It seems to be severely incongruous with what is actually provided to the inmates in terms of rehabilitation, education, food and even necessities. As a taxpayer, hearing this amount would have pissed me off. I get it. I am paying a huge chunk of my salary in taxes for someone who committed a crime. My tax dollars shouldn't have to go toward making a criminal feel comfortable.

As an inmate, I wonder where this money actually goes and I feel awful for my former misguided perception that would allow me to dehumanize another person because I didn't know the reality of what actually occurs behind prison walls. The reality is that we get 1 roll of toilet paper a week and 5 pads per month. Not enough by normal human standards.

I have seen and experienced plenty of inhumane treatment here and not giving people enough toilet paper to wipe their poop or enough pads so they don't bleed everywhere when they have their menstrual cycle is degrading and cruel. Even gas stations don't regulate their toilet paper like this...

How are prisoners supposed to come out of this experience rehabilitated when you turn them into animals?

I have really just covered the basics in here. There are things like sweats which are needed to reduce the discomfort from the stiff prison issued khakis we wear or sneakers to stop the blisters that the prison issued steel toed boots cause. There is no medicine available so you have to purchase cold medicine and Band-aids. And you most certainly don't want to step into a community shower in bare feet so you need shower shoes.

 If you know someone in prison and you are wondering why they need money on their books -- this is why. Please send it to them without question because we get and have nothing in here. Allow them to feel like a person and not an inmate.