Monday, March 5, 2012

The Toilet Ratio

Das Boot is an acclaimed German film depicting the grim realities of service on German submarines in the Second World War. The death toll was astonishingly high; about 30,000 of the 40,000 men who served on U-boats never returned.

The claustrophobic conditions also took a terrible psychological toll on the sailors, even before hostilities with other vessels begin.

Onboard the U- boat, the quarters were cramped, foul smells of all sorts filled the air, and there was only one toilet for all fifty or so men.

Curiously, the experience of having to share a single toilet with fifty other men also occurred in an entirely different context: California’s prisons.

Last year, Brown v. Plata, a constitutional challenge to overcrowding in those prisons, reached the U.S. Supreme Court prisons. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that, in some prisons in the California system, as many as 54 inmates shared the same toilet.

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