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Waiawa, Kulani inmates sewing masks for staff, themselves

  • COURTESY STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
                                Inmates are currently producing 600-700 cloth masks daily at the state’s Waiawa and Kulani correctional facilities.

    COURTESY STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY

    Inmates are currently producing 600-700 cloth masks daily at the state’s Waiawa and Kulani correctional facilities.

Add inmates in the sewing program at the state’s Waiawa and Kulani correctional facilities to the list of Hawaii folks who’ve taken to sewing cloth masks in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The goal is to provide the masks for Department of Public Safety staff, inmates and then other state agencies, the agency said in a release today.

Corrections officers at Oahu, Maui and Hawaii community correctional centers have complained to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that they are not being provided masks. Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda told state legislators Thursday his staff is working on it.

The sewing project began April 1 and work lines are currently producing 600-700 cloth masks daily, DPS said. Officials expect to ramp up production to 1,200 masks each day by April 17 and then 1,500 masks daily by the end of the month.

In all, DPS has ordered 14,000 masks that is expected to be filled by the end of the month. Phased delivery is expected to start next week.

“PSD wants to make sure everyone in the department’s Corrections, Law Enforcement and Administrative divisions has at least two cloth masks each,” Espinda said in a release.

“On top of the personal protective gear already on-hand within our divisions, we wanted to make sure everyone has a couple washable, reusable cloth masks,” Espinda said.

To date, none of the state’s eight correctional facilities have recorded any confirmed cases of COVID-19 “and we are marking every effort to keep it that way,” Espinda said.

The state Department of Health has also expressed interest in purchasing the masks, DPS said.

The Hawaii Correctional Industries (HCI), with help from Hawaii Fabric Mart and Printex Fabrics, has supplied the fabric, sewing supplies and sewing machines for the inmates but DPS is also putting out a call to the public for donations to meet the growing demand.

Waiawa Warden Sean Ornellas said many inmates want to help but that more equipment and sewing materials are needed.

Among the items being sought are sewing machines, sewing machine needles, new fabric by the yard (100% cotton or poly cotton fabric), plastic tables, irons with small tabletop ironing boards, fabric scissors and threads of all colors.

To make donations, contact Hawaii Correctional Industries at 808-677-6638 or email psd.hawaiici@hawai.gov.

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