Montana inmates help manufacture PPE amid COVID-19 crisis

Posted at 5:12 PM, Apr 17, 2020

Montana's prisoner workforce is helping produce high-demand Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montana Correctional Enterprises says hundreds of inmate workers at the Montana State Prison and the Montana Women's Prison have produced around 5,300 cloth masks, 1,400 face shields, and hundreds of other pieces of protective covering over the past several weeks.

“Manufacturing utility PPE at our facilities seemed like a logical solution,” said Montana Correctional Enterprises (MCE) Administrator Gayle Butler referring to the nation-wide shortage of PPE. “We have knowledgeable staff, talented inmate workers, and the overall ability to be versatile in our operations.”

The Department of Corrections also ordered a 3-D printer in March that allows them to craft face masks that use the N95 filters.

Currently the PPE is going to facilities inside the Department of Corrections, with cloth masks being distributed to staff and inmates at facilities across the state.

Once the DOC's needs are met, they can begin filling orders from outside groups, or organizations like health care centers and law enforcement.

“Thanks to the vigilance of DOC employees, we have not had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in any of our secure facilities,” said DOC Director Reginald D. Michael Friday. “We are hopeful that good fortune will continue and we’re glad MCE has been able to ensure our staff and inmates have extra protection during this time. Beyond that, we are thrilled we’ll be able to extend that assistance outside the walls of the facility.”