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Knitting – it’s not just for nanas

Knitting – it’s not just for nanas

The last person you would expect to see chatting away in a knitting circle is a male prisoner.

But in New Plymouth Prison a small group of men are challenging that perception.

The seven prisoners have been knitting blanket squares, beanies and are now moving on to slippers as part of a weekly knitting workshop run by Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society volunteers.

Some of the men have really shown their dedication by knitting away in their cells for hours in the evening.

This morning the knitted items were gifted to the Taranaki Women’s Refuge. These items will be distributed to women and children who are being supported by Refuge staff in the community or in their safe house.

Acting New Plymouth Prison Manager Ngaire Knowles says the idea of hardened prisoners knitting may seem incongruous but the quality of their work is of a high standard.

“No one was interested to begin with but when we explained to them that darning was actually a useful skill they perked up. They used to slink into the group activity but have discovered there’s nothing feminine about it. It’s a craft that some are keen to pass on to their children.”

“All of our wool is donated and these days it’s in big demand inside the prison. Some of them spend hours knitting in their cells.

“The activity is a constructive use of time but it’s also helping socialising them. They talk civilly while knitting and help each other.

“The men will be going back into the outside world eventually so the more we can do provide them with skills and normalise interactions with the community, the better”

Taranaki Women’s Refuge manager Janice Jessiman says that in most cases men are the perpetrators of family violence, for which some are jailed.

“If by actively participating in producing useful items means that these men want to give back to the community that they have hurt then it can only be a good thing.”

“Taranaki Women’s Refuge is happy to be part of that journey of growth and change.”

“We would like to see them carry on with their hard work by realizing their potential and changing their behaviour - the ultimate reward will be to live a life within healthy respectful relationships.”


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