Female Prisoners in Kansas Make Dentures for Low-Income Patients

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy prisonprofiler.com

The women of Topeka Correctional Facility in Topeka, Kansas are an interesting sort.  While some sweep, mop, wipe down tables, or engage in wholesale janitorial work assignments, a special group of 8 female prisoners make dentures for low-income patients through an innovative partnership between the Kansas Department of Corrections, Kansas Correctional Industries, and the Southeast Kansas Education Center at Greenbush.

Founded by the Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation, in 2007, the dental technician program employs 8 female prisoners at Topeka Correctional Facility, all of which were specially selected by prison administrators for program placement.  These female prisoners make dentures for Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved (KAMU) patients.

The process is complex.  The KAMU clinics make an impression of the patient's mouth.  This impression is then sent to the female prisoner dental technicians at the Topeka Correctional Facility, who create a wax and plastic teeth mold of the impression.  This temporary mold is then returned to the KAMU clinic to ensure that the fit is perfect.  Once approval is granted, the mold is sent back to the prison, where the female prisoner dental technicians use plastic teeth and hard acrylic to craft the final set of dentures.  These are then delivered back to the KAMU clinic for delivery to the eagerly awaiting patients.

The women at the Topeka Correctional Facility's dental lab are skilled and dedicated.  Plainly, they take pride in their work and the mission they are striving to fulfill: providing superb quality dental care to needy Kansas citizens.  In 2012 alone, they made dentures for 180 KAMU patients.  In July of 2013, the dental lab was relocated within the Kansas Correctional Industries building at the Topeka Correctional Facility.  Within 6 months of the move, the female prisoner dental technicians had created dentures for another 159 KAMU patients, surprising everyone and surpassing all expectations of productivity and quality.

Due to the resounding success of the dental technician program at the Topeka Correctional Facility, it is being expanded.  With additional funding from the Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation, lab space and the number of program participants will be doubled within the next 5 to 7 months.  Also expanded will be program offerings.  The female prisoner dental technicians will also be creating crowns and bridges for KAMU patients.

While the female prisoners only make 60 cents per hour, they are afforded the opportunity to learn a marketable trade, and the ability to make a difference in the world outside of prison.  Not only do they make dentures for needy patients, but in their extra time, they put together gift bags containing dental floss, toothpaste, and toothbrushes, which are then distributed to around 2,000 YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment and Topeka Moving Ahead Program participants, as well as other women prisoners at the Topeka Correctional Facility.  Of course, the Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation funds this worthwhile program, too.

To learn more about the Topeka Correctional Facility's dental lab technician program, visit http://cjonline.com/life/arts-entertainment/2014-02-01/inmates-make-dentures-patients-safety-net-clinics.