An inmate’s toilet is one of the most versatile fixtures in their cell. It can be used as a trash receptacle, a “cooler”, a communication device, or even a delivery system that can move contraband and messages from one cell to another. When stuffed with a t-shirt or bed sheet it can even provide an entire group of prisoners with a few hours in the day room or yard.
It’s common knowledge in the world of correctional facilities that prisoners use their toilets as a way to create plumbing chaos and get out of their cells and/or to pass contraband. It’s a problem that is dangerous and one that results in high maintenance costs. But what exactly is it that wreaks all of this havoc and how can it be stopped?
The Source of the Problem
An inmate stuffing their clothing or bed sheet into their toilet is only where the problem originates. With traditional fixtures and gravity waste lines, that bed sheet or piece of clothing is often able to be flushed through the toilet into the waste stack where it moves a distance down the waste line before it creates a blockage. Because many other toilets are attached to that waste line, all the toilets get plugged up.
Inmates in the flooded cells get to spend time in the day room or yard while staff tries to locate and then remove the waste line blockage.
It’s that same waste line that allows prisoners to send contraband or even use their toilet as a makeshift telephone. The problem is the waste line beginning at the toilet bowl is tied into a waste stack servicing the next bowl and the next bowl, and on down the line, providing an open pathway from one fixture to the next.
The Solution to the Problem
An open waste line does not exist with vacuum plumbing. What you do have is a toilet bowl that’s attached to the waste piping network, but isolated from that network by a closed valve.
The only time the valve opens up is when you flush the toilet. When the flushing stops that the valve is closed, thus eliminating an open pathway for communication between cells.
That closed pathway also means that while it may be possible for an inmate to plug up his or her own toilet, main line blockages are very rare. Staff immediately knows who is responsible for the damage.
A facility with vacuum waste has enhanced security and control benefits, in addition to reduced operational costs due to no line stoppages.
A correctional facility can also benefit from savings through lower water and sewer use. AcornVac toilets use only 0.5 gallons of water per flush instead of the 1.28 or 1.6 gallons that most conventional security toilets require. The savings add up when you consider a prisoner, on average, flushes their toilet 24 times a day.
Estimated Water Savings Using Vacuum Flush Toilets (PDF Download)
Additional cost savings occur during the construction phase of the project, whether you are adding on to an existing facility or building new.
In new construction, vacuum plumbing does not require expensive excavation and trenching to bury waste piping under ground. It also gives you flexibility in design by allowing you to locate fixtures “at will” without regard for existing mechanical chase space.
Savings and security benefits also occur when you are renovating or adding additional floors because you can install the plumbing overhead. You can easily route around existing mechanical, electrical or structural elements. There is no need to disrupt the floors below, which is rarely an option in correctional facilities.
While vacuum plumbing’s ease of installation and water and waste savings are certainly appealing; we find the safety and control features of an AcornVac system are what gets most facility superintendents excited.
For more information, case studies and articles on vacuum plumbing in correctional facilities, click here. To contact your location reps, click on Contact at the top of this page.
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