Prisoners knit to help abandoned pets

A new programme at Rolleston Prison has inmates knitting blankets for abandoned animals.

A new programme at Rolleston Prison has inmates knitting blankets for abandoned animals.

Sick, abandoned and homeless animals are keeping warm this winter thanks to inmates at Rolleston Prison.

A new knitting programme offers the men an opportunity to help local groups.

The project is an extension of the mixed media art and craft workshops run by a prison art volunteer who contacted Christchurch Dog Watch and the SPCA.

The blankets have been useful at the Canterbury SPCA this winter, which is seeing a high number of dogs and puppies.

The blankets have been useful at the Canterbury SPCA this winter, which is seeing a high number of dogs and puppies.

Canterbury SPCA chief executive Barry Helem said over the past three months, dog and puppy welfare cases have increased 50 per cent on the same time last year.

 "With such a large number of animals requiring care over the cold winter months it is vital that we have enough supplies of bedding to help keep them warm and free from illness."

With no government funding and costs of over $2 million a year, the local SPCA relied heavily on the generosity of the community to maintain their service.

"We simply cannot afford to buy all the bedding we require and are grateful to Rolleston Prison for their efforts," he said.

Collectively the men knit a variety of peggy squares and sew them together into blankets. The wool is supplied by donations.

Tom (name changed) said he enjoyed doing something meaningful for others in need. 

 "It's very rewarding," he said. "Knitting quilts for sick little cats and dogs gives me the joy of giving back to society."

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Prison director Mike Howson sees art as an important constructive activity in prisons, giving prisoners different ways to express themselves.

"Knitting is a great therapeutic activity for the men," he said. "It requires patience and is quite a social activity."

The weekly knitting sessions can also be continued individually during any free time, afternoons and evenings. 

"It provides the prisoners with something constructive to do during their reflection or down time and an opportunity to practise and strengthen skills around communication, working with others, goal setting and patience," Howson said.

Knitting also assists the older prisoners to maintain flexibility.

 - © Fairfax NZ News

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