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Arizona Department Of Corrections Sells Prison Toilet Paper To Employees At Cost During Pandemic

Members of a private Facebook group for Arizona Correctional Officers say the Department of Corrections is selling prison toilet paper to employees at cost during a pandemic that has caused shortages of personal hygiene products.

KJZZ was given access to the Facebook group, whose members recently discussed the policy and shared pictures of memos posted in Arizona prisons announcing the opportunity to purchase prison toilet paper at wholesale prices.

For years, the department has come under scrutiny for limiting the amount of products like toilet paper, tampons and pads that are available to inmates out of a state concern that inmates would hoard them. Now, it appears the department is allowing their employees to do just that.

Speaking of the toilet paper sales to inmates, one member of the group expressed concern that employees were able to buy an entire case.

“A case of 96 rolls for $38. Of course they sell out,” a member of the group commented. “Who are the geniuses who head these programs LOL. I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s DOC,” the member wrote.

“The Tp we give to inmates?” Another member asked.

“Yeah. It sucks, but it’s better than nothing,” the author of the post replied.

KJZZ has independently verified that several people commenting in the group are ADC employees, but is not naming them.

In December of 2019, incarcerated women living at the Perryville prison in Goodyear told KJZZ the department was withholding toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, citing costs.

The women said the correctional officers strictly enforce a one-roll-at-a-time policy, where guards must search inmates’ living areas before they are allowed to get additional toilet paper.

Correctional officers have to call a sergeant’s office and clear the inmate, who is then allowed to exchange the empty roll for a new one, the women alleged.

A recent commissary list for inmates in Arizona prisons lists toilet paper for sale as “Toilet tissue, single roll, (limit 4)” for 60 cents per roll.

ADC employees in the Facebook group said they were able to purchase a case of toilet paper, or 96 rolls, for $38, which calculates to a per-roll price of 40 cents each.

According to the Facebook posts, selling toilet paper to employees occurred at multiple prisons.

The initial post indicates the Eyman prison was one location. Other members of the group posted that they were able to buy the toilet paper at the Lewis prison. “38.66 for us at Lewis,” a member of the private group wrote. “Ones who ordered yesterday can pick it up Friday. I ordered, better than going to the stores and online to find nothing.”

In the past, when inmates have complained of toilet paper running out at the prisons, the department cited costs as the reason for placing a limit on the amount of toilet paper for inmates.

“Prior to February 2018, inmate toilet paper costs at ASPC-Perryville were approximately $16,000 per quarter,” said former department spokesperson Andrew Wilder in a 2018 interview with KJZZ. “Since March, those costs have risen to approximately $48,000 per quarter.”

Members of the private Facebook group also shared memos they claimed had been posted in the state prisons.

“Staff Toilet Paper Sales” one flier reads. “Please contact Rebecca in the complex DWOP office.” DWOP stands for Deputy Warden of Operations, seeming to indicate ADC administrators were aware of the program.

Another member of the Facebook group indicated ADC administration approved of the policy. "Admin wanted to do something to help the staff," the group member wrote. "The request was elevated to central office and authorization to do this for staff was obtained."

The Arizona Department of Corrections did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

“PRE SALE ONLY!!” the flier continues. “$38.66 per case. 96 rolls per case. Limit one per staff member. Cash or credit. Exact change only. All orders must be received by 4pm 3/19/20. Oder pickup 3/23/20. Will be available from 6am to 3pm in the Warehouse for pick up.”

The man who wrote the original post seemed to be conflicted about the offer. “Money isn’t the issue, it’s the irresponsibility the department uses in it’s judgement.”

Another man wrote he would not be taking advantage of the offer, citing the poor quality of the toilet paper.

“It’s John Wayne toilet paper,” the man wrote. “It’s tough, it’s rough and don’t take (expletive) off anyone.”

A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Corrections said the the toilet paper sold to ADC staff "was purchased exclusively with money from the Lewis Prison Employee Fund after employees expressed a pressing need."

In a statement, ADC said the employees make voluntary personal donations to the fund through fundraisers.

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ADCRR staff members have been working long shifts, leaving little time to purchase basic provisions for themselves or their families," the statement said. "A supplemental order was placed through Waxie, ADCRR’s cleaning supply vendor, and the toilet paper was made available for purchase by ADCRR employees at cost."

The ADC spokesperson said the sale of toilet paper at the Lewis prison has been discontinued.

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Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.