Inventor Devises “Safe” Prison Razors, Toothbrushes


Paul Biermann, an inventor at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, is suggesting toothbrushes and shaving razors with altered molecular properties that may prevent prisoners from turning them into weapons, the Washington Post reports. Inmates extract blades from razors, then wedge them into the melted ends of toothbrushes to make slashers. They sharpen the ends of toothbrushes into small daggers by rubbing them against concrete.

Biermann has designed a razor that allows smooth shaving with a significantly weakened blade. He bonded the blades in place, making it even more likely they would break into tiny pieces if removed. “Creative and sensible,” said Alex Fox, director of security technologies at the Massachusetts Department of Correction and chairman of a 14-state group that reviews prison devices. In Northeastern prisons, Fox estimates, fewer than 20 percent of shaving razors and fewer than 10 percent of toothbrushes are the small, safety types. Fox says the devices don’t work so well as bigger ones. And maintaining hygiene, he says, reduces medical costs and makes prisons safer.


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