Slopping out

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Slopping out is the emptying of buckets of human waste when the cells are unlocked in prisons in the morning. Inmates without a toilet in the cell have to use a bucket or chamber pot while locked in during the night. The reason that some cells do not have toilets is that they date from the Victorian era and were therefore never originally designed to have toilets. As a result, there is no space in which to put a toilet, together with the expense and difficulty of installing the necessary plumbing.

Slopping out was allegedly abolished in England and Wales by 1996, although some sources maintain that Prisons Inspector Nick Hardwick has stated that it still persists in some places such as Gloucester gaol,[1] which closed Gloucester in early 2013.[1] It was scheduled to be abolished in Scotland by 1999.[2][3] Due to budget restraints the abolition was delayed, and by 2004 prisoners in five of Scotland's sixteen prisons still had to slop out.[2] Slopping out ended in HM Young Offenders Institution Polmont in 2007, leaving HM Prison Peterhead as the last prison where prisoners did not have access to plumbing, as 300 prisoners had to use chemical toilets due to the difficulty of installing modern plumbing in the prison's granite structure.[4][5] Peterhead ultimately closed in December 2013.[6]

Slopping out is still in practice in prisons in the Republic of Ireland.[7] However speaking at the launch of the Irish Human Rights Commission's Annual Report for 2009, the Green Junior Minister for Integration Mary White said it was time to move on from the Victorian practice. Slopping out was due to be eradicated in Dublin's Mountjoy prison for the first time in its 150-year history by the end of 2013.[8]

A "potwalloper" was a trusty prisoner who made sure the buckets were emptied and cleaned each morning. He did not do the cleaning himself, but he was responsible for making sure that other prisoners did.


  1. ^ "Very sloppy". Private Eye No. 1280. 21 January 2011. p. 31. 
  2. ^ a b Shirley English (27 April 2004). "A daily ritual for one fifth of Scots inmates". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  3. ^ "Inmates lose 'slopping out' claim". BBC News Online. 12 August 2004. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  4. ^ "Slopping out payments to be made". BBC. 15 September 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  5. ^ Lucy Adams (25 October 2007). "Slopping out cash that was diverted away from prisons". The Herald. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  6. ^ "Notorious Peterhead prison closes its doors". The Scotsman. 6 December 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  7. ^ The Times article on Inspector of Irish Prisons
  8. ^ Conor Lally (19 June 2013). "Burglary rates down 10% in Dublin, Shatter tells Oireachtas Committee". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2013-06-19.