Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Floss -- A Jailer's Nightmare

Photo By Steven Kayser -- Courtesy of AP
Dental floss may well be considered “public enemy #1” when it comes to jailbreaks.  Last month, a group of New York prisoners sued for access to dental floss -- a demand officials said they had to give serious consideration to because of “security issues.” Their reluctance to fork over the floss is because many a jailbreak attempt has been tied, literally, to dental floss.

In Texas, guards believe a prisoner used floss to cut his way out of his cell, then jump and kill a fellow inmate.  In Maryland, Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin, inmates have been caught with large amounts of floss that had been braided into ropes for planned escapes.  One clever Illinois inmate used dental floss to stitch together a life-size dummy that he left in his bed to throw off guards when he escaped.  And, many an inmate has fashioned floss into devices used to hoist contraband from one cell to another.  

One successful floss escape occurred in 1991 at the Hays County Jail in Illinois when three prisoners bought hundreds of yards of floss from the prison store and braided it into a makeshift ladder incorporating used cardboard salt and pepper containers for stirrups.  

“It was ingenious,” said U.S. Attorney Gerald Carruth of the creation. “That dental floss is strong.” (The men were caught.)

No wonder floss is a prison guard’s worst nightmare.

To prove -- or dispel -- the floss-to-escape theory, an episode of the science TV show "Mythbusters" set up an experiment using a floss-equipped robot to test whether floss — combined with toothpaste to make it more abrasive — could really saw through a bar on a jail cell.  The result:  it IS possible, given 300 days at eight hours a day, just the kind of time that an inmate might have.

“Inmates can make a weapon out of a chewing gum wrapper,” says Steven Kayser, whose company sells “Floss Loops,” a floss product advertised as prison safe.  Floss Loops are small rubbery circles, with no hard plastic, that is specifically designed to break before it can be used as a weapon.

Regulations of dental floss in prisons vary around the country.  California allows only Floss Loops.  New York’s state prison permits floss -- but only the unwaxed kind, which they consider less strong than the waxed version.

The bottom line on floss is that it can be your best weapon against tooth decay...and an even better weapon for a jailbreak!

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