TDOC inmates make thousands of protective masks and gowns

Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 22:17:48-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As the numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 climb, health care supplies are spread thin. A new project with the Tennessee Department of Correction and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency hopes to lend a helping hand.

About 100 TDOC inmates are making protective masks and gowns. They are then given to TEMA and the department will distribute them to areas that need them most.

"Often times we find inmates in TDOC are wanting to help," Commissioner Tony Parker said, "They hear about what's going on from their families."

The protective gear are being made by offenders working in the TRICOR textile plant at West Tennessee State Penitentiary and the Morgan County Correctional Complex.

"Yesterday about 5,000 masks and close to 600 or 700 protective gowns were given to TEMA," Parker said, "tomorrow we'll ship over around 1,500 gowns and 8,000 masks which essentially doubles that production."

In Tennessee, there are more than 2,000 positive cases of the virus. In Davidson County alone, numbers have surpassed 500. In Sumner County, they saw an increase of more than 175 cases in just 14 days.

Commissioner Parker says they will continue making protective equipment for as long as it's needed. They’re also in the talks about possibly making protective face shields as well.

"When you give an inmate a sense of helping others, it also helps them understand what's important in life." said Parker, "These supplies for TEMA will help so many people across the state and hopefully will save lives."

Commissioner Parker adds that TDOC inmates also helped out with tornado relief efforts by raising more than $1000 dollars. Part of those proceeds went to Second Harvest Food Bank.