Colorado inmates are producing more than 4,500 masks a day for Department of Correction staff and other prisoners. Inmates working in Colorado Correctional Industries began making masks in late March. A virtual town hall briefing on Thursday, Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Dean Williams said that the masks that were first distributed to staff are now also being given to prisoners.

Denver Post reported that staff who works in prison facilities received the masks first because they travel in and out every day and are more prone to transmit the virus, Williams told. As correction officers and other employees are required to wear face coverings at work, prisoners produced 14,297 masks for correction staff and 19,107 masks for inmates by April 15.

Colorado Correctional Industries is a separate division under Department of Corrections that receives no state funding. Job program offered by the division produces dorm beds, furniture, flags and license plates. The department aims to teach skills to prisoners that can help them in finding suitable jobs after their release.

Inmates paid $5 to $6 a day

Surgical mask
Representational image pixabay

According to the experience and number of masks inmates are making, they get paid around $5 to $6 a day, said Annie Skinner, spokeswomen of Department of Corrections. Williams acknowledged that prisoners get "very small" pay though they receive bonus pay for producing masks.

Several prison facilities utilize inmates labour in producing essential items like hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment. Inmates at the Rikers Island Jail in New York City are getting paid $6 an hour for digging graves for the bodies. According to an analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative, prisoners can earn between 33 cents to $1.41 per hour by working in state-owned correction industries. However, inmate workers in some facilities do not get paid at all.

Williams also informed that three inmates have been tested positive from two Colorado Correction facilities. Eight staff members got diagnosed and 160 staff members are under quarantine due to coronavirus. He warned that coming months are going to be complicated for the prison system. Colorado recorded 10,447 cases confirmed and 486 fatalities due to the pandemic so far.