Taiwan Inmates Make 1,000 Masks Daily, Working Extra Shifts To Meet Demand Brought On By Covid-19

As face masks become a hot commodity globally due to the spread of Covid-19, countries are facing a shortage of the precious item.

Amidst dealing with the outbreak, Taiwan has placed a ban on export of masks that may last till May. This is to ensure that citizens can have greater access to the item.

They even implemented a face masks rationing system, limiting citizen’s usage to three masks a week.

Additionally, citizens from all walks of life have been activated to help combat the raging virus by manufacturing face masks. That includes inmates from Taipei Prison and other such facilities across Taiwan, who have volunteered to mass-produce cloth masks and face mask protectors.

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Over 52,000 masks produced by Taiwan inmates since mid-Feb

The new scheme, which prisons across Taiwan are taking part in, gives prisoners an opportunity to give back to society and regain a sense of purpose and confidence.

According to Channel News Asia (CNA), the prisoners have already produced close to 52,000 face masks since mid-February.

A Taipei Prison official was quoted as saying that his inmates produce about 1,000 face masks daily. This figure has increased from an initial 450, due to the ever-increasing orders.

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Inmates volunteered for the job

As Covid-19 rages outside the prison gates, the inmates in Taipei Prison can be seen sitting industriously at small tables in a brightly lit factory, skillfully sewing colourful fabric with a sewing machine, and then trimming, ironing and packing each mask with care.

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Many of them volunteered for this job in order to help relieve the face-mask shortage.

Working extra shifts

Furthermore, as many recognise the importance of their role in combating the virus, many inmates are OT-ing on their own accord just so they can fulfill orders.

Taipei Prison official Yen Chih-hong was quoted as saying by CNA:

They are very willing to work extra shifts to fill in the orders … sometimes I have to ask them to take a break.

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Selling at NT$25 (S$1.15) each, the profits will go to victim reparations and improvement of facilities.

A small allowance will also be given to inmates, which they can spend in prison.

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Face mask coverings prolong usability of masks

What are these face mask protectors that the inmates are making, though?

As almost all Taiwanese have started wearing face masks in public, they started becoming scarce, especially after the authorities started limiting the use of surgical masks to three a week.

The cloth coverings sewn by inmates thus help to prolong the usability of each surgical mask.

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Giving a sense of purpose to inmates

While making masks can be tedious work, the inmates that were interviewed remain motivated by a sense of purpose derived from the task.

Yuh, a 50-year-old inmate in Taipei Prison serving a sentence of 23 years in the facility, thinks of his family while making them.

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Through his efforts, Yuh is able to feel more connected to his family as he tells himself that he is indirectly giving them a sense of security, he told AFP News in an interview:

Every time I sew face masks, I think to myself that it can bring some security to my family.

He also explained¬†that crafting cloth masks “lets us contribute to society” and gives them self-esteem.

It also teaches them practical skills that might come in handy in future.

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Taiwan prison staff help inmates make face masks

It’s not often you see correctional officers being inspired by their inmates.

But those in Taiwan are apparently so inspired that they have joined hands with inmates to produce of face masks.

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Heartwarming initiative motivates the whole island

As this new scheme empowers prisoners and inspires prison staff all over Taiwan, it motivates the whole island in its fight against Covid-19.

It seems to be working, as Taiwan, despite its close proximity to the Chinese mainland, has registered just 48 cases of the virus, and 1 death.

Kudos to the inmates who volunteered themselves for the tasks. Their willingness to give back to society is certainly commendable.

Featured image adapted from ABS-CBN News.