ALBION, Ind. (WANE) — Several prisons in the Indiana Department of Corrections are seeing COVID-19 outbreaks among their offenders and employees, so a Noble County facility is doing what they can to prepare themselves.

So far, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at the Chain O’Lakes Correctional Facility, but the staff and offenders at the prison are making sure they’re prepared for potential exposure. The effort to sew masks at the Chain O’Lakes Correctional Facility in Albion was lead by correctional caseworker 4 Danette Smith, who taught the offenders how to make the masks.

“When they said that there was a need to have masks made, I thought I’d put my talents to work,” said Smith.

David Boger and Charles Easterly are two of the offenders who voluntered to make the masks. Courtesy: Doug Foley, IDOC

Smith said they saw the great need for pre-made masks in the community around them and so did not want to take masks from others, but they still needed a way to protect themselves because of the type of environment they are in.

“With us coming in from the outside and everyone being so close together, it’s just really important to practice safe social distancing and then not breathing on each other.”

Some of the staff donated supplies and they pulled together some volunteers who spent about 5 hours a day for three days sewing masks. Charles Easterly says it was an easy task once they got the hang of it.

Courtesy: Doug Foley, IDOC

“When she showed us how to do it, it wasn’t hard at all,” said Easterly. “We lined all the fabric out first. We cut it, turned it, and then the straps is pieces from the fabric that we cut off.”

In all, they made 220 masks, enough for all of the facility’s offenders and staff plus some extras for anyone new who comes in the building. David Boger says the masks bring a sense of security to everyone in the facility.

“We’re all worried. We don’t want to catch anything either so whatever it takes to avoid from spreading it is what we are here for.”

Some of the volunteers who made masks also have a hand in making yarn hats. According to Smith, it started out as an effort to get hats to cancer patients and premature infants in the NICU. It started out as a small group of men but quickly grew. They eventually started making hats for the anti-bullying campaign #HatsNotHate, an effort by Lion Brand Yarn to collect 100,000 blue hats to be handed out to schools for students to wear through the month of October to bring awareness to the impact of bullying.

Courtesy: Doug Foley, IDOC

“It not only gives them something here that they can focus on other than just doing their time, it gives them something for anti-stress,” said Smith. “It’s a time for them just to sit down and relax and kind of talk amongst themselves about just different things that they probably wouldn’t talk about up in the dormitory.”

It has become an issue important to the men making the hats.

“I think that it’s good suppot,” said Boger. “Bullying is not okay and we support anti-bullying. No child, no person should have to deal with that.”

The Chain O’Lakes Correctional Facility is looking for yarn donations to help them make as many hats as possible for the cause. Anyone interested in contributing should reach out to the facility’s Public Information Officer, Doug Foley.