Madison County officials look to combat inmate flooding problems

MADISON COUNTY, Ind. – The Madison County Jail has had four significant floods in the past eight days. Now, officials at the jail are dealing with remnants of those floods, including damage to ceilings.

Sheriff Scott Mellinger says the heart of the problem lies with inmates who are causing the floods by clogging their own toilets. Mellinger says the inmates often use their uniforms or ropes made from scrap pieces of clothes to create a plug.

“They’ll flush them down the toilet to get the plumbing clogged, and then they’ll continue to flush or run water here in the sink to cause flooding in the cell,” Mellinger said.

Mellinger says the reasons the inmates give for causing the floods can vary. However, he noted that some of the inmates inadvertently clog the pipes by trying to use their toilets as a delivery method for contraband including letters and drugs.

“People in other cells then have unique ways of forming a vacuum from their own toilet either above or below, and it pulls that contraband up to their toilet,” he said.

Mellinger added that officials recently discovered a female inmate who had more than 20 letters sent through the plumbing system.

Due to the jails aging plumbing system, Mellinger says the clogging can often lead to leaks and water damage in the walls and ceilings.

To help crack down on the flooding, the county is looking to install electronic flushers which would control the amount of times an inmate could flush the toilet. Mellinger said the devices would significantly reduce flooding. However, due to money constraints, the flushers can only be installed in a fraction of jail toilets.

“If we could install those electronic flushers throughout the jail, we would stop these flooding issues probably 95 percent,” he said.

Mellinger says work to install the electronic flushers could begin within the next 30 days. But due to issues with the aging plumbing system, installation could be delayed.