LUCAS COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - Inmates are eating the jail - literally.
It's a problem not just here at the Lucas County jail, but across the country and it's costing tax payers money.
It is disturbing: inmates eating tile, tooth brushes, pens and paper clips. And we have proof in x-rays that show items in their chests and abdomens.
This may be shocking to some, but those working directly with inmates says it's all too normal.
Anissa Floures, director of medical services at the jail, says anything that can be swallowed has been by inmates at the Lucas County jail.
"It's never a dull day here nothing really surprises me," said Floures
Major John Sylvester has worked at the Lucas County jail for over 28 years and says anything they can swallow they will, and the x-rays prove it.
"I've seen everything like pieces of metal from a magazine, a staple that they shouldn't have access to. I've seen batteries ingested. I've seen tile, I've seen them drink things they shouldn't - anything they can get their hands on they could potentially use to harm themselves or others," Sylvester said.
Inmates eating harmful items is an even bigger issue in Lucas County.
"It's 40 years old. It hasn't been maintained and its crumbling," Sylvester said.
Loose floor tiles, caulking from window sills and even paint chips are seen as opportunities to get out from tiny cells.
"A lot of it is to get attention, but mainly to get to the hospital to get out of here for a day or a couple hours, because a lot of times they will remain there for 24-hour observation," said Floures.
Before the hospital visit, the inmates have to stop at the jail's medical department for a nurse to assess them.
They don't have an x-ray machine, but a mobile x-ray company can be called to capture images before a potentially expensive and dangerous trip to the ER is made.
"Anytime you take an inmate out of this building you have a potential for them to escape, you really do and that is a concern for us," said Sylvester.
It's the escorts to the hospital along with the medical bills that are costing you, the tax payers, big bucks.
An alarming number of inmates have been taken to the hospital just this year, many for ingesting parts of the jail, but most for substance abuse.
"Two-hundred-and-three hospital runs for half a year is huge. That is huge. And you are right, that is tax payer dollars because every time we send inmates out, we send them with two deputies," said Sylvester.
At the top of Sheriff Tharp's wish list for the jail, is a body scanner. It is a huge expense, but this will not only allow nurses to run inmates who ate something they shouldn't through a scan, but will also keep the jail safer by scanning anyone booked for hidden items or drugs.
Sheriff Tharp also mentioned this problem is most common with inmates that have mental health issues, which is why the jail works closely with local mental health agencies. A team of counselors is available to monitor and work with these inmates who are likely to eat parts of the jail.