File; Kalub Mayes sews a sneeze guard at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington (Courtesy of the Wyoming Department of Corrections)

CASPER, Wyo. —  Inmates at Wyoming correctional facilities are working to make cloth masks and face shields, amid the coronavirus cause COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement from the Wyoming Department of Corrections, in the last two weeks, approximately 30 inmates from the Wyoming Women’s Center, the Wyoming State Penitentiary, and the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution have been voluntarily working extended shifts at their facilities to produce cloth utility masks, referred to as “sneeze guards,” for the entire WDOC staff and inmate population. The masks are being manufactured through the WDOC’s Correctional Industries Program.  

The masks are made from twill and poplin materials in the CI inventory which are used to make staff and inmate uniforms.  

Everyone working inside a WDOC facility – to include the Department’s 25 Field Offices, Central Office, and five correctional facilities – is now required to wear a department issued sneeze guard in compliance with CDC recommendations. 

Multiple “sneeze guards” are being issued to individuals, as the masks are intended to be worn only one day before being laundered.  The sneeze guards have been made in two colors- orange for inmates and white for staff.  Over 10,000 masks have been made between WWC, WMCI and WSP as of April 16. 

“Inmates within the CI program are also making clear plastic face shields and water resistant isolation gowns that might be used to supplement face masks in higher risk areas,” said a Wyoming DOC statement.  “These will also be distributed should the need arise.”

To date, the WDOC says there have been no reported positive cases within the WDOC inmate population. 

“A staff member from the Wyoming Women’s Center who tested positive for the virus last week has made a full recovery according to the Wyoming Department of Health,” the WDOC statement said. “No other cases among WDOC staff have been reported.”

Non-staff members, such as construction workers or vendors, will be given a disposable mask if they do not have one and be required to wear it at all times when they are inside a WDOC facility. 

Inmate visitations are still suspended at this time.  

Craig Plyer (left) and Jim Rich stand next to bundles of sneeze guards produced at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins (courtesy of the Wyoming Department of Corrections)