Inmate “Toilet Talk” Can Provide Criminal-Case Evidence


Inventive inmates around the U.S. speak cell-to-cell using their commodes, a phenomenon known as “toilet talk,” says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A pair of inmates might call out chess moves. Some prisoners have used the sewage pipes as a conduit to pick up prisoners of the opposite sex. Inmates have had commode conversations about criminal matters that were used as testimony or evidence in court. On Tuesday, a woman who had been incarcerated at Allegheny County Jail for double homicide testified in court that she emptied the water from her cell’s toilet trap, stuck her head inside the bowl and regularly spoke with her boyfriend. The boyfriend who also was incarcerated for the killings, was lodged on the floor above her at the jail.

The U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia got the FBI to wiretap the toilets at the city’s downtown Federal Detention Facility to track members of a drug trafficking operation. Prosecutors used toilet conversations to secure hefty sentences against two men. Agents tapped the prison plumbing system and got a recording of one threatening to kill witnesses who might testify against prisoners charged for their involvement in the drug network. Communication through toilets and air vents is fairly common in jails and prisons, according to correctional officials surveyed. It’s been reported daily at the high-rise, maximum-security Multnomah County Detention Center in Oregon and inmates in California’s San Quentin State Prison used it decades ago to pass the time in solitary confinement.


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