Brazilian prisoners knit for freedom

Great-grandad shows knitting not just for girls (iStockPhoto)

A Brazilian prison has come up with an innovative new role for its prisoners.

Euro News reports that Brazilian fashion designer Raquelle Guimaraes was short on staff but was keen to boost production for her clothing line.

But rather than train locals in the art of knitting and crocheting, she took a different approach and decided to turn to the inmates at the Ariosvaldo Campos Pires for workers.

The scheme, entitled the Lotus Flower Project, was launched in 2009 and has been hugely successful in the institution with a total of 20 prisoners now taking part.

Ms Guimaraes, who is from the state of Minas Gerais, now goes into the prison to teach the inmates about knitting and crocheting, ensuring that they are producing high-quality items and improving their skills continuously.

Once the finished garments are ready they are then exported around the world to countries including France, the US and the Japan.

Many of the inmates have been helped by the project and have discovered new skills they never thought they would have, as well as a great opportunity to relax and be creative.

Former prison inmate Celio Tavares, who was convicted of armed robbery, told the publication that he first picked up a pair of knitting needles as part of the Lotus Flower Project.

He said: "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 opens the door to work and employment for everyone else."

What makes the scheme particularly innovative is the rewards the prisoners get in return for their work.

Each inmate has a starting salary of 75 per cent of Brazil's minimum wage, with one quarter of this money set aside and made accessible when they are freed.

For every three days' work of knitting that the prisoners do, they are also allowed to have one day taken off their sentence.

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