Don't needle prisoners over this yarn

00:26, Aug 28 2011
CONVERTED CONS: Inmates at New Plymouth Prison have developed a successful knitting circle to the astonishment of all involved.

Needles might be a taboo topic in most jails, but not at the New Plymouth prison.

For the last six months the prison's harmony unit has taken up working with yarn and needles to knit beanies and other items.

To everyone's surprise the initiative has been a success with up to 16 prisoners taking part.

The items they created, under the guidance of Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society Taranaki president Barbara Sarjeant, were yesterday donated to Women's Refuge.

Acting prison manager Ngaire Knowles said the idea came out of a brain-storming session and she was pleased it had been embraced.

"I think they have appreciated they have learnt a new skill that they can take back to their families."


Prisoners in the unit were able to knit during unlock hours and some were even allowed to do it in their cells, Ms Knowles said.

One member of the group, in his 50s, said he was stunned by the results.

"It is quite productive," the prisoner, who could not be identified, told the Taranaki Daily News.

"It is not a guy thing. It is not something that many blokes would do on the outside."

He was taught to knit by his mother when he was nine and off school but he was not sure it would catch on in jail.

"No, I didn't. I still laugh at how well it's gone."

Being involved in the group had helped prisoners bond and develop skills besides their needle work.

"We all get on really well, knitting has played a big part in that. It helps others to communicate, whereas otherwise they might not have," he said.

He said the group discussed all of the usual topics when they were together.

"Fishing, hunting and cars. We are real blokes but we knit."

Mrs Sarjeant said she was sceptical about the idea when it was first mooted.

"When it was first broached to me six months ago, my reaction was you have got to be joking," she said.

The group was now thriving and Mrs Sarjeant said she couldn't be more pleased. "I'm delighted, I really am. This is good stuff," she said showing off items they had made.

Women's Refuge manager Janice Jessiman was impressed with the group's work. "I think it is great. They are giving something positive back to a community that they may have hurt in the past."

Taranaki Daily News