Mexican female inmates produce face masks for the COVID-19 pandemic

The women at Santiaguito prison produce 7,500 masks per week

Mexican female inmates produce face masks for the COVID-19 pandemic
Female inmates at Santiaguito prison make hundreds of masks per day - Photo: Jorge Alvarado/EL UNIVERSAL
English 23/05/2020 14:25 Alexis Ortiz Mexico City Actualizada 08:23
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Although the novel coronavirus has caused fear throughout Mexico, solidarity has emerged to face hard times,

An instance of it is the enthusiasm to defeat COVID-19 that has taken over the Santiaguito Center for Prevention and Social Reintegration in the State of Mexico where female inmates produce thousands of masks.

Sitting in the room that is home to the sewing workshop, nearly 30 inmates take pieces of fabric and give shape to the personal protective equipment that are sold to foundations or that are donated by businesspeople to vulnerable sectors.

Tatiana Ortiz Monasterio, director of Plan B, the organization that coordinates the production, explains that this project represents a double benefit; on one hand, the supplies are sold and the money is given to the inmates, and on the other, the foundations distribute the masks to prevent more COVID-19 cases.

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The objective of the women at Santiaguito is to produce 7,500 masks per week, so they work every day from 9:00 to make 100 pieces each.

Some members of the project have better skills than others when it comes to sewing, however, they all want to help the country.

“We want to help and give support from here. We put all our effort and love into our work and we’re doing it as fast as possible so that the masks can arrive at people who need them,” says Carmen, the coordinator of the workshop.

The pandemic has also affected women in prison since, in addition to practically being forgotten, now family visits have been suspended at Santiaguito.

“We’re very worried about our families, about everyone outside. We call them to cheer them up because we know what it’s like to be confined. We also want to bring them hope because this will end soon,” said Carmen.

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This concern about their families moves the inmates to keep producing masks that are made with a material gifted to them by the private sector or by Plan B.

Although Norma still has 40 years of sentence ahead, she enrolled in the sewing workshop with hope.

Her voice tells that inmates not only produce medical supplies to earn profits and fight the pandemic but also to experience some kind of redemption.

“For me, being here is like a springboard to go higher and be better in the future, to return to society with pride,” says Normal, who also rejects the stereotypes against people in prison, and asserts that this kind of projects show they have changed and they are ready to come back to society.

Norma also remembers how, at first, it took her a whole day to make a single mask, but she acknowledges that with time, she has found her way, and now her production is faster.

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The inmates at Santiaguito hope to produce 30,000 masks soon, nevertheless, if they still have materials, they will keep producing them.

“As long as we continue receiving support from people, the government, or companies, we’ll be open and available to work hard; moreover, the women at Santiaguito want to return society everything it has given to them,” says Tatiana Ortiz.

The penitentiary system expert explains that the idea for this project came when some of her friends talked about giving free masks to the population to prevent contagions. That was when the women at Santiaguito became the protagonists of this cause for Tatiana Ortiz suggested they could produce them.

“This helps women because they are busy. They are relaxed and experiencing a reflection to improve themselves.

“They want really hard to thank those who have given them support through different projects we have performed together,” she added.

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