March 6, 2015

Whatever You Do, Don’t Bend Down and Pick Up the Soap : Everything You Need to Know About Prison Bathrooms

Just kidding, you don’t have to worry that you will be the “butt” of that joke in federal prison camp.  There are no group showers in camps. However, showering can be challenging and does require some pre-planning.  If you feel similar to how I felt before leaving for prison, you have questions and concerns about the bathrooms in prison. This article is going to share with you everything you need to know about prison camp bathrooms so that you can focus on the more important things before your departure.

The number of showers varies per camp but all of the showers are private and have curtains.  However, the showers are tiny and if you have a history of being an acrobat, gymnast, or yogi, it will come in handy. It is customary for most campers to enter the shower room with their clothes and shower shoes(flip flops) on and to take off your clothes in the shower stall.  Imagine trying to take off your pants while doing your best to keep your shower shoes on and not to touch the floor of the shower.   I do not think I have to write details about why you want to do your best to not touch the shower floor without the protection of your shower shoes.  Needless to say, it is not a surface you want your feet to come into contact with.

Another difficulty is trying to shave your legs in such a small space. Unless you can kick your leg straight up like a Rockette dancer, it’s likely you are going to have some hairy spots on your legs.  After you are done showering, most people dry off in the shower and then proceed to get dressed in the shower as well.  Drying off in the shower is yet another challenge. The towels that are provided to you are very thin(a Kleenex might absorb more water).  It will take some time for you to get dry enough to put your clothes back on. Then, you can start the process of putting your clothes back on your semi-wet body while not trying to have your feet touch the floor(this is where a background in acrobatics will help). You can walk through the halls in your towel but this is not usually done.  You can also get dressed/undressed in the shower room outside the shower.  This will give you some more space but will not be private.

Every hallway will have restrooms that have doors or curtains.  If the restroom has a door, you will be able to close it but not lock it. This brings us to another important point. One of the many odd things about camp is that there is no toilet paper in the restrooms. Campers need to take toilet paper with them each time they visit the bathroom.  Two rolls of toilet paper will be distributed to each camper per week.  If you run out of toilet paper, you are sh&t out of luck and will have to ask a friend to borrow some.  The toilets themselves will be cleaned several times a day by campers, who have been assigned a bathroom to clean. However, it is each campers personal decision (and at their own risk) whether to sit or stand when using the toilet.

The bathrooms will also have rows of sinks where you can wash your hands, brush your teeth, and wash your face.  There is a liquid soap dispenser in the bathrooms but it may or may not have soap in it. When you are able to go to commissary, you can purchase a carrying case for your toiletries so that you do not have to place them directly on the sink.

There are mirrors in the bathroom as well where you will be able to see your face.  However, it’s not likely that you will come across a full length mirror at camps. So, be prepared to lose sight of what you look like from the neck down.

Upon arrival, you will receive a small bar of harsh soap, a small bottle of liquid all purpose soap, a small comb, a tooth brush, a small tube of tooth paste, and a disposable razor. As soon as possible you will want to purchase the necessities from commissary since the items given to you will not last long. From commissary, you can purchase, shampoo and conditioner, a brush and/or comb, a bar of soap or body wash, face soap, deodorant, a toothbrush, tooth paste, dental floss, mouth wash, shower shoes, and a mesh bag to hold your toiletries in.

Although it’s comforting to know what to expect in your new surroundings, I strongly believe in and share Justin’s advice that it is not the physical stuff inside that is important.  So, go ahead and start practicing standing on one foot in your shower, but spend more time thinking about how you want to emerge from prison and the steps you need to take to get yourself there. That is what matters.

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