At the direction of supervisors, inmates at a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, used shoddy and deceptive methods to produce hundreds of thousands of unsafe combat helmets for sale to the U.S. military, reports the Houston Chronicle. From 2006 to 2009, prisoners were told to use rotted Kevlar – the synthetic fiber designed for ballistic protection – then change serial numbers when helmets failed inspection and pass them through the production line anyway, according to a lawsuit against the manufacturer and a recently released Department of Justice report. An investigation found more than 126,000 helmets to be defective and unsafe for combat, resulting in more than a $19 million loss to the federal government.
The DOJ found no evidence of injuries or deaths to soldiers resulting from the work done at Beaumont’s medium security facility. ArmorSource, the helmet manufacturer, agreed earlier this year to pay a $3 million lawsuit settlement. Supervisors at UNICOR Federal Prison Industries – which is supposed to provide inmates with marketable job skills and work experience – directed inmates to use old Kevlar damaged by years of rainfall, according to a lawsuit filed six years ago by the federal government and two whistleblowers at UNICOR. The lawsuit previously had been sealed, and the civil case was closed in March, court records show.