COLUMBUS, Ohio—Ohio prison inmates are stepping up to fill the ongoing shortages of masks, hand sanitizer, and other personal protection equipment needed in the fight against coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday.
Inmates at some of Ohio prisons have already made 500 hospital gowns, and will soon be able to manufacture 44,000 when they get additional fabric, the governor said during his daily COVID-19 briefing from the Ohio Statehouse.
Inmates are also set to make up to 2 million surgical masks, worn by coronavirus patients to catch droplets from sneezes and coughs, 1,400 gallons of hand sanitizer, and face shields which protect the entire front of people’s heads, rather than just the nose and mouth.
DeWine said the work is “very, very important,” and thanked inmates and prison officials working on making the products.
“Everyone is coming on board,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the state’s prisons agency didn’t immediately return a request for more information on the initiative, sent Monday morning.
Ohio isn’t the first state to use prison labor to make items desperately needed by health-care workers who are treating an ever-increasing number of coronavirus patients.
Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted the production of hand sanitizer by inmates in his state. Cuomo quickly came under criticism from several criminal justice reform groups for using prison labor, which pays less than $1 per hour in New York.
So far, no inmates at any of Ohio’s 31 prisons have tested positive for coronavirus. One staffer for Marion Correctional Institution, a minimum-to-medium-security facility, has tested positive, officials said Sunday.