Some female inmates in Mexico’s prisons have come up with a new way to replace earnings lost after the coronavirus closed retailers that sold their handiwork – making soft toys dressed as doctors and nurses in facemasks.

About 30% of prisoners in Mexico’s crowded, cash-strapped jails work for themselves, with female inmates making and selling crafts and other products, using the money to buy supplies from clothes to food, or to send to their children.

But the coronavirus has closed malls, stalls and retailers where prison-made products were sold, and forced prisons to restrict or stop visitors who brought in supplies and money.

That has put the estimated 10,000 women in Mexican prisons – about 5% of the total prison population – in a tough situation, with work drying up and outside help limited.

 “They’re struggling a lot,” said Daniela Ancira, co-founder of La Cana, a social enterprise that sells soft toys made by women in prison with a mission to help those incarcerated.

“They started calling us to say please … we don’t have enough to send to our children, we don’t have enough to buy personal hygiene products.”

To stem the drop in income, La Cana launched a new set of soft toys dressed as doctors and nurses wearing facemasks.

About one third of money raised goes to about 143 women who make them, another third to administrative costs, while the rest buys protective equipment for medical workers.

“We thought of this … not just to give them more work but also so they could contribute something positive to society,” Ancira said. 

National Post

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