Corrections answers call amid COVD-19 mask shortage
W.Va. – The demand for masks in response to the COVID-19
pandemic has prompted West Virginia’s Division of Corrections and
Rehabilitation to pitch in and help in a major way.
Inmates at the Lakin Correctional Center,
the state’s prison for women, and the Denmar Correctional Center have been
making protective cloth face coverings – 32,200 and counting.
Both groups are part of DCR’s Correctional
Industries program, which provides a variety of goods to government agencies.
As that product line includes upholstered furniture, the inmates were already adept
at working with fabrics and patterns, said program Deputy Director Betty Slack.
“They are taking great pride in this
project,” Slack said. “I’ve been to both shops and they are thrilled they were
able to offer design ideas, etc. and realize they have one of the most
important functions in state government right now.”
With material supplied by the W.Va. National
Guard, the inmates are making face coverings for general use. The inmates so
far have provided nearly 8,000 masks to the National Guard, for a statewide
collaborative attempt at a sufficient stockpile for West Virginia. At Lakin
alone, the inmates are completing at least 1,000 each day.
While not medical-grade, the masks provide
the level of protection recommended by the CDC for public settings. Producing
these face coverings helps reserve such heavier-duty masks as N95 respirators
for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
Since last month, the Lakin and Denmar inmates
have assembled more than 24,000 face coverings with DCR-supplied materials for all
state prisons, jails and youth facilities – enough for every staff member,
contract worker, and inmate or juvenile resident.
The Denmar inmates have donated 600 of those
masks to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, Greenbrier Valley Hospital, and
Pocahontas County Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Inmates are also making and donating masks
out of the Charleston Correctional Center. A group in the facility’s
Residential Substance Abuse Treatment unit have so far provided nearly 500
masks to Charleston Area Medical Center, the Ansted Volunteer Fire Department,
and the Montgomery Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
“When we reached out to CAMC to see if
they would be interested in the masks, they were very excited and have even
donated a couple of sewing machines to assist with the project,” said CCC
Superintendent Jeff Stinnett. “The female inmates that are involved love doing
it and have become very resourceful and creative making various type masks. As
far as donations, we’ll be glad to try and help whoever has a need.”
DCR Commissioner Betsy Jividen has visited
the inmates at both facilities to encourage and thank them for their work.
Helping them sew at each workshop, she came away “truly inspired by the
enthusiasm for this project and the determination to ‘give something positive
back’ to society.”
“These men and women stepped up and asked
to be a part of the ongoing fight against the virus,” Jividen said. “We are
very proud of their contribution and the key role they are playing in the
statewide preventative effort to save West Virginia lives.”
The National Guard has supplied Gore-Tex,
a lightweight synthetic material renowned for being waterproof yet breathable,
and Taslan, a woven polyester fabric with similar properties, for its project. DCR
is supplying polypropylene fabric, also breathable and liquid-repellant, for
the masks distributed among its facilities. All of the masks are hand-washable