Prisoners in Morocco are doing their bit in the country’s fight against the spread of coronavirus by making thousands of face masks for fellow inmates.
“We feel like we are contributing to the collective effort, even if it’s from behind prison walls,” 40-year-old Khalid, wearing a white coat and a face mask, told AFP during an interview in the presence of prison management.
An inmate at Casablanca’s Ain Sebaa prison — the kingdom’s most crowded jail, with some 8,000 inmates — Khalid leaves his cell every day for the sewing workshop, passing through long corridors that reek of disinfectant.
He finishes off the masks while others cut the fabric or pack the protective items into plastic bags for distribution to some 80,000 prisoners across the country.
The North African kingdom has officially declared 7,300 coronavirus infections, including 197 deaths.
It has extended its lockdown until June 10, and anyone going outdoors requires authorisation and must wear a mask.
Police checks are frequent, and those caught risk up to three months in prison and a fine of up to 1,300 dirhams ($130) for violating the rules.
One of the aims of the pilot programme, launched at Ain Sebaa prison at the start of May, is to “foster a spirit of citizenship” among detainees and “help them to manage their detention during the lockdown”, prison management said.
Since Morocco declared a medical state of emergency in mid-March, prison visits and any activities that require outside intervention have been halted.
Hospital visits are limited to emergencies, while court attendance has also been suspended, with hearings held via video conference.
Over 300 virus cases have been recorded among inmates in the country’s prisons, with about a quarter of infections among personnel, according to official figures.
Rights groups have urged authorities to release some detainees to limit the risk of infection among the country’s notoriously overcrowded prisons.
At the start of April, King Mohammed VI pardoned more than 5,600 prisoners.