Dozens of Iowa prison inmates are working to expand the state’s stockpiles of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer.

According to the Department of Corrections, about 75 men and women in state prisons are making thousands of fabric masks and gowns, with plans to expand to face shields. DOC spokesman Cord Overton says the inmates are working around the clock.

“We want to make sure we can take care of those that are actually producing these products and make sure that we have the products that we need for our own safety,” Overton says, “and then we’ll be shifting all of that supply to go out to the rest of the state of Iowa through state Homeland Security and Emergency Management.”

Once the department’s needs are met, supplies will go to the state stockpile, to be distributed to county emergency managers as needed. “And then the shipments all will be all going to the state stockpile, to be distributed across the state to those areas that need it, whether it be hospitals or first responders,” Overton says.

The inmates are being paid between $1 and $1.25 an hour. Health care providers in Iowa are being directed to reuse PPE in certain cases, due to shortages.

(By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)