Advocates Criticize ‘Potty Watch’ Practice in CA Prisons


At least 524 times last year, California prison inmates suspected of swallowing weapons or drugs had to undergo a “contraband surveillance watch” procedure that, at a minimum, lasted as long as it took them to have three bowel movements, reports Mint Press News. Also known as “potty watch,” the practice — as described in the prison system’s operations manual–allows authorities to place an inmate “in a medically approved controlled isolated setting … under constant visual supervision observation until the contraband can be retrieved through natural means, or is voluntarily surrendered by the inmate.”

While being watched, the inmate's hands are restrained so he cannot reach his rectum, the restraints only being relaxed “to facilitate his bodily functions.” Once he has relieved himself into a portable toilet, the toilet or toilet liner “shall be immediately retrieved or removed” so the feces can be examined for contraband. Other states use similar procedures designed to extract contraband from inmate feces. The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker human rights group, is advocating for change in the procedures, which an official of the group said is “used primarily to humiliate and punish people.”

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