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Prisoners knit for the SPCA's homeless cats and puppies

09 September 2015

Prisoners knit for the SPCA's homeless cats and puppies

Prisoners at Rolleston Prison have been showing their softer side by knitting blankets for abandoned and homeless animals rescued by the SPCA.

The prison group meets weekly to knit with a volunteer art tutor. They also have the opportunity to knit in the afternoons and evenings when they have free time. The knitting programme as part of the prison’s wider art programme and is a constructive activity, complementing other education, training and group therapy that prisoners attend.

So far the men have completed ten blankets, and there are more on the way.

“Art is an important constructive activity in prisons as it helps prisoners strengthen their communication skills and learn to express themselves in different ways,” says Prison Director, Mike Howson. “Knitting is a great therapeutic activity for the men. It requires patience and is quite a social activity.

“Over the past three months the number of dog and puppy welfare cases has increased by 50% compared with the same period in 2014,” says Barry Helem, Chief Executive Officer for SPCA Canterbury. “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.”

The Canterbury SPCA receives no government funding, and with costs of over $2 million per annum, they rely heavily upon the generosity of the community to maintain their service.

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“We simply cannot afford to purchase all the bedding we require and are grateful to Rolleston Prison for their efforts,” says Barry. “As the need for our service continues to increase, this valuable support really will help us to ‘save lives’ over the winter months.”

Several men attending the art and craft group are competent knitters. These men are supported to teach other participants who are interested in learning to knit. Collectively the men knit a variety of peggy squares and sew them together into blankets. The wool is supplied by donations.

Tom*, one of the knitting group, is enjoying doing something meaningful for others in need.

“I find knitting for those in need very rewarding. Knitting quilts for sick little cats and dogs gives me a joy of giving back to society.”

Several Rolleston Prison staff members knit and can find themselves giving extra tutoring or lending a hand with fixing any errors.

“The men are really pleased that the items they make are going to animals in need and that the blankets they knit will go with the dogs to their new homes. You could say that each stitch is part of a much bigger picture,” says Rolleston Principal Corrections Officer Karl Bennett.

“I think most people, including the men involved, start by thinking that knitting isn’t something that men do, particularly not male prisoners.”

“When they have given it a go they have found it is more difficult to master than they thought. They have generally found it a very relaxing and rewarding pastime which they are keen to continue with.”

“I’m sure the dogs and cats really appreciate it too.”


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