Here is yet another story about the therapeutic effects of knitting. Yesterday, the Huffington Post ran a story about a woman, Lynn Zwerling, whom after five years of perseverance with the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Maryland, was allowed access to the prisoners so she could teach them to knit. She called the class Knitting Behind Bars.
In the original story, the Baltimore Sun quotes Zwerling “”I just knew it would work,” she says. “I thought I could give a calming influence to people who really need this. I’m not a social worker. I’m not an educator. But I thought what it takes to do knitting are skills vital to human existence — setting goals, completing a project, giving to somebody else.”
Two years later, there’s a waiting list.
The prison is a minimum-security facility, but some of the crimes include stabbing, child abuse, assault and burglary. Since Knitting Behind Bars has started, the warden, Margaret M. Chippendale, has noted a decrease in violent crime among the group of prisoners who take the weekly class.
Along with knitting hats or scarves for themselves, the prisoners have also made comfort dolls for children whom Social Services had removed from their homes. They have also knit hats for inner-city elementary school children.
This story really made my day. I can just picture these really tough inked out prison guys sitting there with their bamboo needles reciting “knit one, purl two.” My first thought was, ooh boy, they could use the knitting needles as weapons, but the article does mention that the women teaching the class have to watch all the supplies they bring to the class. I love hearing stories about prisoners who have been rehabilitated in the prison system and once they have served their time, go on to lead productive lives. It’s romantic, yes, but I wish there were more programs like this. In the Baltimore Sun piece, they do interview a couple of inmates who have continued to knit once they are on the outside.
The women who teach for Knitting Behind Bars buy their own supplies. If anyone is interested in donating, you can go to the Knitting Behind Bars blog or join their Ravelry group.