Hawaii inmates are sewing thousands of cloth masks to be distributed to public safety staff and the community at large to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The state Department of Public Safety said in a news release that inmates in the sewing programs at the Waiawa and Kulani correctional facilities began their sewing project on April 1. They are currently producing 600 to 700 masks a day, but hope to produce 1,500 a day by April 30.

The Hawaii Correctional Industries, the work program for inmates, provided fabric, supplies and sewing machines. It is also working with private providers, including Hawaii Fabric Mart and Printex Fabrics.

The department said it has already begun distributing the masks to its corrections, health care, law enforcement and administrative divisions. The goal is for each correctional, law enforcement and administrative staff member to have two masks.

“This was a great opportunity to give the inmates something productive to do and keep them from becoming idle,” Wanda Craig, warden of the Kulani prison, said in the news release. “These guys were eager to play a part in helping our community by volunteering their time.”

Once the public safety department’s order is fulfilled, the project will be expanded to include orders for other state agencies, the department said.

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