May I use the rest room? Jail officials lock bathrooms to quell contraband

nate smith


Logan County Jail officials have confirmed that certain modifications to the lobby in recent weeks are an effort to curb the amount of contraband being smuggled to inmates in the jail.

Most notably, both public bathrooms have been locked and a camera has been installed to better keep track of who goes in and out of the facility. Trash cans have also been removed from public areas in and around the lobby.

Four packs of tobacco were recently recovered from a jail bathroom, administrators said. Jail staff also have uncovered several attempts to smuggle drugs into the jail via bathrooms, trash cans and ash trays.

Those are just the instances the jail knows about.

Jail visitors stashed contraband wherever they thought was a good hiding spot, and the items are collected by jail trusties tasked with cleaning the lobby and taken back into the jail.

“We almost need a deputy to patrol the grounds 24/7. No one has any fear of the consequences anymore,” jail administrator Greg Fitzpatrick wrote in an e-mail, adding that at first his plan was to lock the restrooms permanently until he consulted building and health codes.

Lt. Fitzpatrick acknowledges the new practice is, “a complete pain for staff,” but calls it a, “necessary evil.”

This is why we can’t have nice things.

I first noticed the locked bathrooms a few weeks ago during a recess in Logan County Common Pleas Court. Count among my personal vices a delight in the taste of Rockstar energy drinks; only the lemonade kind in the yellow can, as I’m hyper-loyal to that particular flavor.

I usually drink one, maybe two a day, around lunchtime and again in the evening while I’m watching the Reds.

The 16-ounce boost of caffeine and electrolytes go a long way to helping me stay awake through the long slog of mostly theft- and drug-related cases in court.

They help at night, too, during my typically-for-naught attempts to calm our three-month-old son, but that’s a different conversation.

It’s a mortal lock that my favorite lemonade-flavored infused caffeinated beverage will leave me squirming in my seat after only about an hour. It was never a problem before during court as I could just duck out real quick, cross the lobby and make use of the routinely well-kept bathroom.

I wish I could dedicate 1,000 words to decrying this new policy as gross overreach on the part of jail officials.

“Cameras in the lobby? A key to use the bathroom? More Big Brother, ‘guilty until proven innocent’ stuff if you ask me.”

At least, that’s the position I’d like to carve out. Here, it can’t be done.

Officials in this case are responding best they can to what has become a growing problem in the jail. Deputies and corrections officers working the jail floor have a hard enough job without having to worry about a fight breaking out over a cigarette or someone overdosing on the heroin they’ve managed to smuggle in.

The county jail on a given day houses close to 100 inmates. Most days, there are only three corrections officers on the floor to help monitor the jail and keep order.

When the facility opened, there were seven such corrections officers who took turns making the rounds to check for contraband. No longer is there that kind of manpower, and it’s unfortunate that we’re taking advantage of them by circumventing the system and creating more work.    

I’ll say again, maintaining order is difficult enough without having to police efforts to sneak in heroin or even tobacco.

If you, or someone you know, is in jail, maybe it’s time for reflection. Trying to weasel contraband — especially heroin — into the jail is entirely inconsiderate, and I don’t use that word lightly.

To try and sneak in contraband is to act without consideration for hard-working jail staff who already have enough to do than scour trash cans for drugs; your fellow taxpayers who would prefer to use the public restroom without having to first ask permission; and perhaps, most importantly, the inmate who could probably use a little break from drug use — or smoking cigarettes for that matter, as tobacco’s really bad for you.

Only 5 percent of heroin addicts are able to recover. A stint in local lockup might be just the thing to initiate recovery.

As for my afternoon potty break dilemma, it’s really not that much of an inconvenience. I’m familiar enough with sheriff’s office staff that I’m able to use staff restrooms without any trouble. I’d prefer not to, though.

I have great respect for their work, but I don’t want that kind of access. I’d much rather use the public bathroom.

Either way, now I have to ask permission.

Nate Smith is an Examiner staff writer who laments that a few bad apples have spoiled bathroom privileges for everybody else. He can be reached at