State prison inmates make masks for Rowan sheriff’s office

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, April 29, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

SALISBURY — Inmates in North Carolina have made over 130,000 washable face masks that have been distributed within state prisons following the COVID-19 outbreak. Now the work of inmates extends to many North Carolina Sheriff’s offices.

This week, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office acquired 350 washable face masks through a state prison partnership with the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s Correction Enterprises. At the state level, the N.C. Department of Public Security oversees the state’s prison division.

“It’s good to see collaboration between agencies,” said Rowan Sheriff Kevin Auten.

Auten said the partnership was made possible through the N.C. Sheriff’s Association and the state Department of Public Safety. He said the sheriff’s office made a request for 350.

Correction Enterprises allows inmates to learn job skills by producing goods for the state of North Carolina and other tax-supported entities. There are more than 30 different production facilities throughout the state that manufacture products including clothing, furniture, janitorial supplies, signs, eyeglasses and metal products.

In early March, inmates with Correction Enterprises began producing washable masks, face shields and washable gowns for prisons concentrating on facilities that were hardest hit with coronavirus cases.

Capt. Chad Moose said he went to a regional site on Monday to receive the masks. He said they will come in handy as the supply of personal protective equipment remains tight.

In addition, Moose said, the masks will be available if a predicted second wave of the coronavirus should hit the state.

The Department of Public Safety shared via its website that in March it had distributed 3,500 washable masks and produced 6,000 masks produced per week, 60 face shields per hour and 200 to 300 washable gowns each week.

As more inmates in state prisoners tested positive for COVID-19, the state again in early April, increased production of washable face cloth masks. Those masks were distributed to the staff and inmates at those state facilities where an offender tested positive.