Prison authorities across the U.S. are facing a new challenge: dental floss.
In New York, they contend they are not required to supply dental floss to inmates because it poses security concerns. But last month a group of 11 prisoners in the Westchester County jail filed a $500 million lawsuit demanding access to floss.
But jail officials noted that floss has been used several times by prisoners to break out of jail or to stitch together dummies when they escape, according to an Associated Press (AP) story.
Florida inmates filed similar lawsuits earlier this month, claiming their lack of access to dental floss has caused "pain and suffering." But as in New York, sheriff's officials gave a similar response, saying inmates will not receive floss because it can be made into a weapon or rope.
In Texas, officials believe a prisoner used floss to cut his way out of his cell, then jumped a fellow inmate and knifed him to death, the AP reported. And inmates in Maryland, Illinois, West Virginia, and Wisconsin collected enough floss to braid it into ropes to escape.
A group of escaped prisoners on the run in Texas used floss to sew up their gunshot wounds. And an Illinois inmate used floss to stitch together the dummy he left in his bed when he escaped.
Prison experts say floss, or the plastic holder it sometimes comes in, has been used to strangle enemies, escape, saw through bars, pick handcuffs, make a hand grip on a shank, and hoist contraband from one level of prison cells to another.
The New York jail has since given the prisoners circles of rubbery floss with no hard plastic that are designed to break easily before they can be used as a weapon.