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How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts

Stashed in: #health, #happiness, Best PandaWhale Posts, Zen, Focus!, Awesome, Knitta, please!, Keep calm., Knitta PLEASE!, Focus, creativity!

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Knitting helps people feel calmer and more focused, and who needs that moment of zen more than incarcerated prisoners?

Makes them happy, too:

Her first thought was to bring knitting to a men’s prison, but she was turned down repeatedly. Wardens assumed the men wouldn’t be interested in a traditionally feminine hobby and worried about freely handing out knitting needles to prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes. Five years passed before the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup accepted her, and Knitting Behind Bars was born. “I [wanted to teach] them something that I love that I really believe will make them focus and happy,” Zwerling says. “I really believe that it's more than a craft. This has the ability to transform you.”

The men were reluctant at first, complaining that knitting was too girly or too difficult. But Zwerling assured them men had invented the craft, then gave them a five-minute knitting lesson she swears can teach anyone. Suddenly, Zwerling says, the men “found the zen,” and got hooked. Now, every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., they come to class, leaving their crimes and the hierarchies of prison life behind.

Love this. Many programs such as this transform offenders. The system as it stands isn't designed to help improve lives. There were a couple programs in Connecticut that did a great job--author Wally Lamb's writing program and the prison garden. These things, and programs to give back like dog training, are very helpful. Not every offender comes from a place in their lives where these can help, but many have broken spirits. They will reoffend if they aren't shown a better way. If you look at incarceration stats and identify for special needs students, mentally ill, and other disproportionately incarcerated populations, it becomes clear that unless the idea is to just separate these people from society and throw them away, there needs to be something more done for them. Knitting is a fantastic way to meditate, create, be artistic and spend time productively. Things like this are addictive--if you're going to replace an addiction "one more row," is better than "one more line." 

I give a lot of respect to corrections officials thinking outside the box to find ways to help offenders grow as people, even something as small as this makes a big difference. 

Are there any other activities besides knitting that has such impact? Will any craft do?

Not craft. Activity. Any activity that has a purpose for society. Could be a craft, an art, an expression. Could be writing, gardening, training dogs. These things give drive, value, purpose. Value is often missing, especially when offenders are released, the world won't hire them... what now? Go back to the old ways. These types of programs break the chain and give a new way of thinking, and very often the self-esteem to move on. Author Wally Lamb's prison writing program was nothing short of heroic. 

I'm not familiar with Wally Lamb's prison writing program.

But thanks for the distinction that it's skills not crafts that are key.

Sorry I missed this yesterday.  My favorite contemporary author is now my favorite contemporary hero.

And... Cue the music!

i'm all goosebumps!  seriously!  this is so cool.

i love that they "found their zen" and left their crimes and hierarchies behind for some knitting time!

knitta, PLEASE!  (geege, you kill me!)

Perhaps knitting should be taught to children?

yes! they are all into lanyards and friendship bracelets—i wonder why knitting hasn't been a huge hit?

Potential for this:


little kids knitting their own eye-patches! i love it! (this is something for 826 valencia!)

Where I went:  Little kids accidentally poking their eyes out with a knitting needle!  

haha!  of course!  they'll have to knit eye-patches with the one eye they have left once they learn how to control those needles.

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