The state Department of Corrections announced this week that it has started making cotton face masks for emergency use.
“This is outstanding – staff as well as offenders – working together for the greater good,” said Department of Corrections Commissioner Rollin Cook. “At the heart of this effort is an underlying respect for human dignity and the desire to help keep people safe.”
The Correctional Enterprises of Connecticut unit developed a prototype of a cotton fabric facemask that is to be used in situations where the N95 respirators or surgical masks aren’t available.
“The CEC staff and the individuals producing the masks understand the importance and seriousness of the situation at hand,” said CEC Director James Gaglione. “Everyone is coming together to help out.”
The unit has the ability to convert five manufacturing shops for mass production of masks. The department began full scale manufacturing on Monday and expects to produce between 1,200 to 1,400 masks daily. The masks will initially be distributed within the correctional facilities, said public information officer Andrius Banevicius.
“Once adequately supplied, we will look to help our communities,” Banevicius said. “We are all in this together and want to collaborate to the best of our abilities.”
The masks are intended for use in emergency situations, when no other option is available. The Centers for Disease Control notes on its website that the use of homemade masks is a last resort.
In a separate announcement this week, the department said it is preparing for all contingencies related to the coronavirus. The department’s Community Release Unit, Parole and Community Services Division, along with the Board of Pardons and Paroles are working to review the appropriate release of eligible offenders that have a “solid home plan.”
The decisions include an assessment that evaluates the risks to the public and chances for repeat offenses, a press release said.
“We understand families are naturally worried. This applies both to our employees and the offender population,” Cook said. “There is a human dignity component here. We are all living in a time of extreme uncertainty. With that being said, this is one giant balancing act...I am committed to our mission of public safety and I will also continue to safely transition offenders home.”
On March 1, the incarcerated population was 12,409 and as of earlier this week it was 12,099, the department reported.
For those still incarcerated, modified operational plans include continuous cleaning, suspended social visits, limited non-essential inter-facility transfers, a COVID-19 offender intake protocol, and temperature checks for all employees.
Other measures include two free phone calls a week, suspending co-payments for medical services, undisrupted laundry and commissary services, and undisrupted attorney visits.