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Cornhusker State Industries to start production of hand sanitizer, gowns and masks

Rhonda Gillett
Posted at 5:25 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 18:25:39-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Cornhusker State Industries (CSI), which operates the industry shops for the Nebraska Dept. of Correctional Services (NDCS), will soon start producing hand sanitizer, gowns and masks for staff members and other state agencies to use.

“We should be in a place to start distribution next week,” Jeremy Elder, deputy director for CSI, said. “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.”

NDCS director Scott R. Frakes added that 15% of what is produced will be used by NDCS. The rest will be sent to the Department of Administrative Services for distribution.

“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,” said director Frakes.

Frakes said the intent isn't to supply the private industry or to make a profit.

Additionally, sanitizer won't 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,” said Frakes.

CSI shops are also working to prototype gowns, masks and face shields to be worn by inmates or staff members.

“The more that we can produce for our own internal use, the less we are drawing on supplies which are needed in the community," said Frakes.

Inmates who are working to produce hand sanitizer will make up to $1.08 an hour, according to NDCS.

"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.”

Green Plains Inc. is donating the industrial ethanol that will be used in the production of the hand 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,” said Director Frakes.

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