Inmates in the Nebraska correctional system will begin manufacturing hand sanitizer for the state Department of Correctional Services and other state agencies, NDCS said in a news release Monday.

The text of the release follows:

March 23, 2020 (Lincoln, Neb.) – In an effort to meet some of the supply needs that have arisen with the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Cornhusker State Industries (CSI)*, which operates the industry shops for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), will soon begin producing hand sanitizer for utilization by staff members and distribution to other state agencies.

 “We should be in a place to start distribution next week,” noted Jeremy Elder, deputy director for industries. “We are finalizing some of the necessary steps right now that will allow us to produce a test batch this week and then launch into full production next week.”

 “Fifteen percent of what is produced will be retained by NDCS,” said Director Scott R. Frakes. “The rest will be designated to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), for further distribution.”

Director Frakes said the intent is not to supply the private industry, nor is it to make a profit. “We should have ample amount to fill two to four ounce containers and distribute those to staff members. We will also be able to fill our large distribution containers, like those that are stationed in facility lobbies.”

 Hand sanitizer will not be provided to inmates. “We are currently giving them free bars of soap and easy access to water. Alcohol-based products are dangerous. Not only are they potentially flammable, but they could pose adverse health effects if consumed.”

 In addition to hand sanitizer, CSI shops are also working to prototype gowns, masks and face shields to be worn by staff members or inmates. “The more that we can produce for our own internal use,” explained Dir. Frakes, “the less we are drawing on supplies which are needed in the community.”

 “Across the country, correctional industry programs are working diligently to help fill gaps in community need,” added Deputy Elder. “Thousands of Nebraskans benefit daily from the goods and services provided through CSI.”

 Inmates who are involved in producing hand sanitizer will make up to $1.08 an hour. “That’s the top CSI wage,” said Frakes. “But, we want to provide this work opportunity to those who are pre-release, work release, or have been laid off from their community jobs due to the impact of COVID-19.”

 Dir. Frakes expressed his appreciation to Green Plains Inc. which is donating the industrial ethanol to be utilized in the production of the sanitizer. “Hand sanitizer is one of those commodities that has quickly become scarce. When staff members are working in the facilities and they don’t have ready access to soap and water, this comes in handy. This partnership will help fill a need and will allow us to keep some of our inmates employed, while we continue to grapple with this disease.”

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