Sedgwick County cracks down on jail graffiti

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office has taken a tougher approach to graffiti at the jail by starting a cleanup program and threatening charges against inmates who mark up their cells.

Undersheriff Danny Bardezbain said graffiti has been a problem for years, and that now nearly all of the cells at the 1,122-bed facility have been tagged. The walls of one cell features a sweeping mural dotted with stars and swirling clouds, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/10vs2TK). Other cells at the jail have been defaced with profanity, gang signs and references to the Ku Klux Klan.

"There's about 1,100 cells that we have to clean up," he said.

Jail officials hope that will change under new guidelines that include charging inmates with vandalism when they deface cell walls. Jail officials have also replaced inmate's pencils with a softer, flexible version that makes defacing jail property more tedious.

Jail officials also have assigned an inmate the task of cleaning the walls and painting over the graffiti. The inmate spends several minutes to hours scrubbing down each cell to remove as many pencil marks as possible. Each cell also takes up to another three hours to paint.

Recently that inmate finished a pod of cells, where fresh, gleaming off-white walls have been restored to every cell.

"This is the way I want all of the cells to look," Bardezbain said.