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Articles by Kenneth E. Hartman

Disgusting Effects of Prison Overcrowding: Sewage Backflow in My Cell

by Kenneth E. Hartman, Truthout

Every day the toilet in my cell fills up with a disgusting brown backflow, and at least a couple of times a week there are chunks of someone else's excrement floating in it. Since the implementation of flush restrictions and low-flow diaphragms here at California State Prison-Los Angeles County in Lancaster, these problems have grown much worse.

There are now more than 185 men packed into buildings designed for 100, and all of these men need to use the toilet facilities multiple times a day. It's probably the most overlooked yet most consequential byproduct of prison overcrowding, and because California remains wedded to a purely punitive approach to corrections, the overcrowding continues unabated at this prison.

A few years ago flush restrictors were installed on all of the prisoner toilets that limit the number of flushes to two during any five-minute period. When they were first installed, we were assured custody and medical staff would be able to turn them off in cases of diarrhea and other difficulties that required more flushes than the baseline number. This assurance proved to be false. In a cell occupied by two men, both of whom are only feet ...