Sunday, 22 September 2013

Brazilian prisoners spend time knitting to gain some freedom

Knitting their way to freedom, the maximum security prisoners will get a day off their sentence for every three days they work for a luxury fashion label. Poring over their fine-quality crochet, the prisoners of Brazil's Arisvaldo de Campos Pires maximum security penitentiary are a model of concentration. And it's no wonder, when you consider what's at stake. Thanks to a collaboration with Brazilian fashion designer Raquel Guimaraes, the inmates have one day off their sentence for every three days of knitting they perform.

A stitch in time: Prisoners knit clothing for Brazilian fashion fashion
designer Raquel Guimaraes in the Arisvaldo
de Campo Pires maximum security jail.
A face of concentration: They are dead serious in carrying out their chores. The designer turned to the prison for help in 2009 when she had trouble finding knitters for her Doiselles label, which specialises in beautiful knitting and crochet work. She trained 18 prisoners sentenced for crimes ranging from robbery to murder. The end result of their toil is now exported globally, including to the USA, France and Japan. The hand-made pieces which are strictly quality-checked, are also sold in 70 stores in Brazil.
Bleak: At first glance, Arisvaldo de Campos Pires
looks like an unlikely setting for a high fashion project.
Maximum security: Jail breaks are common in Brazil.
Guards are armed to the teeth when they escort popular fashion
designer Raquel into the Arisvaldo de Campo Pires penitentiary.
Design for lifters: The woollens expert passes on her trade secrets as part of the Flor de Lotus projects with the initiative of a chance for prisoners to earn money while serving their time. Participating inmates are paid a starting salary of 75 per cent of Brazil's minimum wage.
A quarter of what they earn is put aside and will to be paid on their release. Former inmate Ceilo Tavares who was jailed for armed robbery, said the project boots prisoners' chances of finding a job when their sentence is up.
Hard at work: The knitting team get down to business
 while the designer keeps an advisory eye on proceedings.
High-end: The inmates' hand-made work is sold in 70 stores in Brazil,
as well as being exported to America and Japan.
Mora than a hobby: Former prison inmate Ceilo Tavares said
that the project gives prisoners confidence,
and skill that they could use in the outside world.
Guidance: Raquel has trained around 100 inmates
to knit and crochet since the initiative started in 2009.
Time well spent: The work gives the inmates something
to focus their energies on;
as well as netting them a day off
their sentence for every three days
they spend knitting.
New tricks: The prisoners involved have been jailed for crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder. The program gives inmates skills and confidence they can use when they return to life on the outside.  This raises the self-esteem of the prisoners and open the door to work and employment for everyone else. The prison is located in Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais, about 100 miles  north of Rio de Janeiro.
Unearthing new talents: A prisoner draws a
fashion model from a photograph. 
Teamwork: Raquel says that the inmates have proven
 their worth as knitters and able to do any work.
Ms Guimaraes, who works nearby, says around 100 inmates have taken up the knitting challenge since she started training them four years ago. She sees the project as a way for prisoners to be viewed as something more than criminals; she explains:
The remission of the sentence gives them the value of redeeming freedom,
integrity and confidence. They are able to do any work
 and churn out excellent products.
Hope for the future: As well as learning a marketable skill,
 the inmates earn wages which will ease their release into society.
Many thanks to Ron Lim for sharing.
Alan CY Kok


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