Union Calls for Rationing Inmate Toilet Paper, Soap To Wash Away Red Ink

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 25, 2008

Montgomery County labor leaders are urging government officials to ration rolls of toilet paper and bars of soap for the county's inmates to help cut costs and cope with a nearly $300 million budget shortfall.

The suggestion to limit inmates to up to three rolls of toilet paper and two bars of soap each week is part of a long list of savings the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization has submitted to the County Council, which is considering raising taxes, trimming services and revising union contracts that include raises for workers.

Gino Renne, president of the local union, said in a six-page memo that inmates are deliberately jamming toilets with paper, causing flooding and costly plumbing problems.

Arthur Wallenstein, director of the Correction and Rehabilitation Department, said that paper-stuffed toilets are not a widespread problem in the county's jails and that he will not restrict the toilet paper supply or other "mandatory personal hygiene items."

Wallenstein said that he appreciates suggestions in a tough budget year but that the department spends $67,500 of its $68 million annual budget on toilet paper he described as low-grade and "very reasonable, nothing excessive."

The union has also recommended reducing Sunday hours at libraries and reinstating a $1 hold fee for books and CDs in addition to getting rid of dozens of management positions that it says are unnecessary.

The council is expected to make final budget decisions May 15.

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