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October 15, 2021

Inmates Sew Quilts for Children in Foster Care – They Don't Want Them to Feel Forgotten

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The prison inmates at Missouri's South Central Correctional Center have set the perfect example of giving back to the community by sewing intricate quilts that are donated to kids in foster homes. 

For a long time, professions like knitting, sewing, and quilting have been associated with women, especially grandmothers. Putting together pieces of fabrics to weave family heirlooms with vibrant colors has long been a customary practice.

However, changing times and global crises like the coronavirus pandemic have made people adopt different hobbies. By doing so, many stereotypes are now being broken, with new perspectives coming to light. 

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A prison inmate at South Central prison can be seen sewing a quilt. | Photo: facebook.com/jan.carrie.steven

While quilting may seem like the last thing a man would be interested in, prisoners at South Central Correctional Facility think otherwise. In an interview with Washington Post in August 2021, inmate Fred Brown shared his experience of quilting: 

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“When I learned that I could help bring a smile to a child’s face, I was all in. Right now, I’m working on a puppy quilt that will go to a 13-year-old boy."

Brown was given a 15-years-to-life prison sentence, out of which he has served 25 years. He was charged with kidnapping and rape, and his dreary prison days were finally overshadowed by his passion for weaving squares of fabric for foster kids. 

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In the past 10 years, the prisoners have woven over 2,000 quilts, which are auctioned by local charities or donated to kids in foster care in Texas County. Another inmate, Rod Harney, who learned sewing in grade-7 Home Economics class, said:

“You see the names of these kids in foster care; you see a 1-year-old or 2-year-old, and it kind of breaks your heart. But that lets us know we’re human still.”

Jim Williams had never set his hands on a sewing machine before he entered the prison at Licking, Missouri. His life changed when he was trained to sew face masks for fellow prisoners and staff members in the wake of the pandemic. 

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A prison inmate sewing a quilt in South Central Correctional Centre, Missouri. | Photo: YouTube.com/HIS Radio

Another prisoner, Richard Sanders, who had been in jail for more than 30 years, explained that he had no idea what he was signing up for when he went to the sewing room to fix a broken machine. He also added:

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“It’s just a real peaceful environment. These places, the more you stay busy, the better you are."

Brown, Williams, and Sanders enrolled themselves into a small group of volunteers whose time in the prison is spent crafting quilts. They meet every day in a specialized sewing room where the continuous lull of the sewing machine keeps them engrossed. 

A user appreciates the work being done by prison inmates at South Central prison in Missouri. | Photo: YouTube.com/HIS Radio

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The prison quilting circle is based on the phenomenon of "restorative justice" and stresses the importance of rehabilitation and giving back to the community. Joe Satterfield, case manager at Missouri prison, who supervises the program, shared his thoughts: 

“You can see a change in their attitude. A light flips on like, ‘Oh, this is a new avenue. I can actually be a part of something.’”

Satterfield shared that the quilting program provides a tranquil respite to the prison inmates, giving them the chance to escape from their personal trauma. By engaging in quilting, they also feel a sense of accomplishment. 

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