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Prisoners make masks against COVID-19 in Peru jail


Prisoner Hernán Leo shows a mask created inside a textile workshop in the “Sarita Colonia” prison, where inmates make personal protection items against COVID-19 in Lima, Peru, on Monday, August 17, 2020.


A small workshop inside a prison in Peru where seamstresses are imprisoned for drug trafficking and aggravated robbery is emerging sewing masks and other garments amid the pandemic.

The 12 inmates who work in a sewing workshop in the Callao prison do not spend on transportation. After a day of work, they barely walk a few meters to return to their cells. The workshop is directed by Hernán Leo, 34, who before being imprisoned ran an urban clothing brand called “Lima, la gris”, in honor of the sky of the same color in the capital of Peru.

In 2019, after being sentenced to eight years in prison for drug trafficking, Leo took a week to accept his new reality. “You should always accept your situation,” he told The Associated Press.

Later, Leo implemented his workshop inside the prison, which allows inmates to work voluntarily through a resocialization program called “Productive Prisons”.

In one corner of the workshop, Leo placed a table and on it he has stacked the editions of a local economic newspaper, which is the favorite of local businessmen. She also owns many patterned papers that she buys from local artists to decorate her masks.

The Callao prison is not the only one where masks are made to protect against the virus. As of July, prison authorities indicated that more than 141,000 masks had been sewn in 13 other prisons in the country.

The first case of new coronavirus in a prison in Peru began precisely in the Callao prison, popularly known as “Sarita Colonia”, a Peruvian who died in 1940 and to whom many humble people and also prisoners attribute miracles.

With an uncontrollable pandemic, even inside prisons, Leo convinced the authorities that they could make masks and they did. They built 5,000 with pieces of cloth of different colors and gave them to the inmates and also to the guards.

They then began making one-piece olive green suits for prison officers to wear. “We shake hands with each other, the pandemic affects everyone,” he said.

The new coronavirus inside prisons has killed inmates and agents. According to official data, 288 inmates and 35 prison agents have died. The South American country has 95,548 prisoners, of which more than a third have not yet been sentenced.