Shower or cesspool?

November 11, 2022

From the November-December 2022 issue of News & Letters

Tucson, Ariz.—I want to share with you something I wrote regarding inhumane sanitation here at USP Tucson. On Feb. 7, 2022, I wrote a BP, or a grievance, on the issue of filthy showers. As of Aug. 28, there was still no response from staff.

I rarely write grievances, since the prison will just ignore them, or “lose” them (which is illegal). But I had to create a paper trail to fight for the guys.


On Jan. 31, federal prisons went on a nationwide lockdown because two inmates were killed in a Texas federal prison. On Feb. 2, inmates in B2 in Tucson had showers in uncleaned shower cells. On Feb. 4, staff continued to run showers, sending prisoners into filthy showers. An officer said, “I ain’t cleaning no showers!”

With 100+ inmates in B2, using nine available showers, and over the last three shower runs, means each available shower was used at least 30 times, with not one drop of chemicals used to clean or disinfect it.

CDC announcements played at least three times a day about sanitation and apparent Eighth Amendment violations concerning “safe and humane” conditions. In the warden’s own words, “It is certainly important that you maintain a high level of sanitation…” Why, then, has no staff member even attempted to provide us clean and sanitary showers—especially during the pandemic?


A lockdown does not disqualify us from sanitary showers, but when we go on lockdown, staff goes into punitive and apathetic status. We’ve been fed trays with no sporks, the milk has gone bad, or we didn’t get any at all, and the showers were horrid.

Imagine going into a shower after 29 other guys have already used it, and not once was it cleaned. On Feb. 7, I asked the officer if anybody was going to clean the shower. It had been a solid week.

He didn’t know. Under this lockdown, no inmate is allowed out of their cell. Well, last week they took at least four inmates to Medical, and we’re out of the cell when we take a shower. Or, get the officers to do it. By default, it is their responsibility anyway.

They found a pump-spray chemical container, and set it out near the lower tier showers, a perfect match for the pump-spray container on the upper tier, that sat unused all last week.

We deserve humane treatment. As long as grievances are under the authority of the prison, they won’t be properly addressed. So I have to create an essay like this one, and share it with as many people as I can.

                                                               —Frederick Mason

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