Knitting Behind Bars Helps Jessup Prisoners in More Ways Than One

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When Lynn Zwerling, 67, decided she wanted to teach knitting to male prisoners in Jessup back in 2005, the wardens thought she was nuts. The men wouldn’t be interested in a traditionally feminine hobby, they argued — not to mention the fact that knitting needles looked an awful lot like weapons.

Cut to six years later, and Zwerling (plus several other volunteers) has spent the past two years teaching more than a hundred prisoners to knit — and she has a waiting list of dozens more. Prisoners have crafted comfort dolls for kids removed from their homes by social services; they’ve made hats for kids at a nearby inner-city elementary school.

The idea came about after Zwerling started a knitting club in her hometown of Columbia and ended up recruiting 500 members. “I looked around the room one day and I saw a zen quality about it,” Zwerling told GOOD magazine. “Here were people who didn’t know each other, had nothing in common, sitting together peacefully like little lambs knitting. I thought, ‘It makes me and these people feel so good. What would happen if I took knitting to a population that never experienced this before?’”

Richy Horton, 38, told Good about his experience with the knitting classes:
“I was like, I’m not going to that thing. And then I went, and you were actually speaking to real people. People can’t really understand [that in prison] you’re completely separated from anything normal or real in the world. You’re always told what to do and when to do it, so to have people come in and treat you like a human being means so much. They came in and they were like my mom.”

If you’re interested in donating money or supplies, there’s info here about the group’s needs.

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