MLGW’s water crisis is affecting jail operations at 201 Poplar

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — MLGW’s water crisis is affecting jail operations at 201 Poplar.

Something as simple as flushing a toilet isn’t an easy task right now with low water pressure across the city but especially at 201 Poplar, where there are almost 2,000 detainees inside.

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The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office told FOX13 there is running water at 201 Poplar, but the water pressure is low.

Mayor Lee Harris closed all the downtown county buildings to help alleviate stress on the water usage near the jail.

“My child is asking for help from the outside. The inmates are not being treated like humans inside the cells” are the words in one of several emails into the FOX13 newsroom over the past four days.

Mothers, sisters, wives, and loved ones all for demanding answers about conditions inside 201 Poplar after the historic snowstorm broke pipes and lowered water pressure across the city.

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Some emails even said inmates aren’t able to take showers, wash their hands or brush their teeth

FOX13 requested virtual interviews with Sheriff Floyd Bonner and Chief Jailer Kirk Fields, not once but twice to get some answers but each time, we were told these officials weren’t available.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said the water pressure is around 44 PSI and it needs to be at 50 PSI or higher for water to reach the upper floors of the jail.

A spokesman said there’s a 5,000-gallon water truck posted outside the jail and this water is taken inside the jail and the inmates use buckets of this water to flush the toilets. Officials said the water truck is shared with Juvenile Court for the detainees to use to flush their toilets.

Additionally, the jail is using normal running water for showers, to boil water for drinking and cooking.

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the conditions of the jail have gotten the attention of some criminal court judges.

Judge Lee Coffee posted about the low water pressure on his Facebook page and Judge John Campbell talked with FOX13 about the sheriff’s efforts to address the water levels.

“It’s a situation where I think they’ve covered, I know they were trying to do some additional things to boost water pressure, but it was taking pressure away from the hospital,” said Judge Campbell. “Right now I think they’re doing as much as they can do, they’ve thought of things that I hadn’t thought of to be honest with you.”

MLGW leadership said the sheriff’s office is looking for ways to conserve water, and that pressure has improved.

“What we’re finding is their pressure has improved but they’ve got some issues on their side, or something going on, on their side of the system that they are diagnosing now to try to find how they can reduce the demand that they are getting to the building,” said Nick Newman, MLGW vice president of engineering and operations.

A sheriff’s office spokesman said inmate relocation isn’t expected and the sheriff and chief jailer are in close contact with city, county, and MLGW leadership about the water levels.

There are no water pressure issues at Jail East that require external water for flushing toilets.