Prisoners in Maghaberry have mastered the delicate art of crocheting to make tiny hats for premature babies, blankets for the elderly and scarves for homeless.
The sentenced prisoners - nick-named the ‘Stitch in Time Gang’ - have crocheted more than 80 items to be donated to local hospitals, nursing homes and homeless charities.
Prison Officer Melanie Green hosts weekly crochet classes.
“We’ve been crocheting for a while now. It all started when one of my colleagues alerted us to an appeal at Craigavon Area Hospital for tiny hats for premature babies. The prisoners wanted to help and when I said I could teach them how to crochet they jumped at it.
“We began with very basic crochet skills but they’ve now nearly all mastered the chain-stitch, slip-knot, trebles and doubles.
“It’s hard to imagine a group of burly prisoners all sitting together crocheting, but it is happening in Maghaberry, and they’re totally engaged. During the classes you can hear them chatting about ‘casting the yarn’, slip-knots and patterns.
“It’s a lifelong skill they’re learning and it really does lift their self-esteem when they know they’re giving something back to the community,” added Melanie.
Maghaberry Prison Governor David Savage said: “Rehabilitation is a major part of prisons today and there are many ways in which we engage and challenge those in our care to change. The crochet classes are just one of many purposeful activities and the efforts of prisoners making these tiny hats, blankets and scarves are benefitting the people in the very community they have offended.
“By reducing re-offending we can make this a better place to live for everyone.”
Julie McConville, Assistant Director for Specialist Child Health and Disability with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “Our thanks to the ‘Stitch in Time Gang’ for their donation of crocheted hats. These hats are great to keep our new born babies warm in our Special Care Baby Unit, Neonatal Unit and general maternity wards in Craigavon and Daisy Hill hospitals.
“We’re delighted the group have been able to use their skills and time to support local families.”
One of the prisoners taking part in the crochet classes said: “It definitely helps me with my anxiety and depression. It has boosted my confidence and you do get something out of it, especially when you know it’s helping a child.”
Notes to editors:
- Maghaberry Prison is the only Category ‘A’ prison in Northern Ireland and also operates as a remand prison for all adult male prisoners in the country. It accommodates a range of sentenced prisoners such as life sentence, indeterminate and extended custody prisoners, separated prisoners, fine defaulters and civil prisoners
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