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SAFE WHEN USED AS DIRECTED CLEAR, PRESENT SOLUTION TO JAIL VIOLENCE.

Byline: Bhavna Mistry Staff Writer

CASTAIC - You may not want your toothpaste to look like hair gel or your roll-on deodorant to be be transparent, but if you're an inmate at Los Angeles County Jail, the clear-colored cosmetics could save your life.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is slowly phasing out colored cosmetic products sold in jail canteens and replacing them with see-through products that make it impossible to hide small-sized weapons or other contraband.

``We're trying to reduce the violence in our jails,'' said Lt. Bob Hudson, of the Inmate Services Unit. ``We are slowly but surely migrating to these products to minimize the assaults.''

The switch will keep inmates from hiding jail-made knives in shampoo or lotion bottles, soap, toothpaste or any other toiletries. Soft packaging makes it difficult to break containers for use in attacks.

``With these products, deputies can take a flashlight and shine through the product,'' Hudson said. ``You can see through the product like an X-ray.''

Hoping to eliminate razors, which are seemingly among the most dangerous weapons in the jail system, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is currently testing a variety of depilatory creams.

In recent years, officials have seen an increase in assaults on inmates and guards with weapons that have been hidden. Authorities are beginning to learn about companies that cater to the inmate population to reduce such threats.

One such company, Adams Clear and Safe Industries Inc., in Delaware is hoping to reap much of the nationwide jail business. The company is working to get its whole line of toiletries available at Los Angeles County facilities.

Among the more than 75 products Adams offers is a variety of shampoos, including Ebony Clean, strawberry-scented and dandruff and medicated.

The company also carries aloe vera liquid soap, Scent of a Woman cologne, Bump Patrol shave gel, anti-fungal foot spray, a flexi-pen that makes it difficult to attack with a writing implement, a security razor, depilatory cream and a variety of religious oils.

``We do nothing else but sell clear and safe hygiene products,'' said Stuart Modell, president of Adams Clear and Safe Industries Inc. ``Everything we do is designed for the safety of the inmate population.''

If the products are approved for use, they will be available for inmates to buy at jail canteens.

Already being sold in county jails is a clear roll-on deodorant, rather than the solid with the screw-type mechanism that can be crafted into a weapon.

The hair-removal creams are being tested at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

Officials are hoping those products will eventually replace traditional razors, which can be broken down and placed into a slit on a toothbrush to create a stabbing instrument.

``Most of the weapons we find are being used the way they were never designed to be used,'' Hudson said. ``(Inmates) can take the most innocuous product and turn it into a weapon.''

Hudson said he sat and watched an inmate one day take a roll of toilet paper and turn it into a fairly strong rope.

Modell said that at the request of jailers, he has designed a razor that breaks down into tiny pieces if it is altered.

``None of these products came about because we felt we should have them,'' Modell said. ``A warden asks for a particular item, and we do our best to manufacture it for them and be creative.''

Sheriff Department commanders are not above testing the products themselves to make sure they work and cause no side effects.

``You can solve one problem but if you create another; it's not effective,'' Hudson said.

The switch also is expected to help in efforts to teach inmates to get along.

``We spend a lot of money on an education contract to keep inmates busy and learning,'' Hudson said. ``But the counseling does no good when you also supply them with products they can turn into weapons.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) These products by Adams Clear and Safe Industries reduce the ability of L.A. jail inmates to manufacture or smuggle in weapons.

David R. Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:683
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