Recently, I came across a few articles online regarding how designer Raquel Guimaraes produces her line of hand-knit accessories. In-your-face headlines such as “Inmates Work for Fashion Designer…” or “Hardened Prisoners Knit Clothes for Time off Jail Sentence” will really grab ones attention. In a nutshell, Raquel has taught inmates in a Brazilian prison to knit. Their skill levels range from intermediate to advanced, and the prisoners now hand knit the collection that she sells in stores in Brazil, Japan, and America. In return, the inmates receive a salary starting at 75% of the set minimum wage along with time off from their sentences. I think this is a brilliant idea. It provides affordable labor, and what entrepreneur can say no to that? But more importantly, I am excited about the positive influence this experience could have on these men.
Needlework is therapeutic and a great stress reliever. Some of my best zen moments were while knitting, so this work could be a strong component of rebuilding the inmates’ character and reintroducing them to society—teaching them to relax and think things through. How many crimes are committed by people who are stressed out, not thinking straight, and have too much free time on their hands? Is helping criminals stay on the right side of the law as simple as them getting a serene hobby or trade? Maybe it is.