Why burly prisoners in Maghaberry have started to learn to crochet

Appeal from a hospital has led to prisoners in NI crocheting tiny hats for premature babies, blankets for the elderly and scarves for the homeless
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"It's hard to imagine a group of burly prisoners all sitting together crocheting, but it's happening."

An appeal from a hospital has led to prisoners in Northern Ireland crocheting tiny hats for premature babies, blankets for elderly people and scarves for the homeless community.

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HMP Maghaberry prisoners have learned some of the most complicated stiches.

Governor of Maghaberry Prison, David Savage and Julie McConville, Assistant Director for Specialist Child Health and Disability with the Southern Health & Social Care Trust, review the crocheting work of the 'Stitch in Time Gang' (Image: Michael Cooper)Governor of Maghaberry Prison, David Savage and Julie McConville, Assistant Director for Specialist Child Health and Disability with the Southern Health & Social Care Trust, review the crocheting work of the 'Stitch in Time Gang' (Image: Michael Cooper)
Governor of Maghaberry Prison, David Savage and Julie McConville, Assistant Director for Specialist Child Health and Disability with the Southern Health & Social Care Trust, review the crocheting work of the 'Stitch in Time Gang' (Image: Michael Cooper)

They have made more than 80 items to donate to hospitals, nursing homes and homeless charities.

Prison Officer Melanie Green hosts weekly crochet classes with the group dubbed the Stitch in Time Gang.

One of the prisoners said it had helped with anxiety and depression.

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"It has boosted my confidence and you do get something out of it, especially when you know it's helping a child," he said.

"We've been crocheting for a while now," she said.

It began when a colleague highlighted an appeal at Craigavon Area Hospital for tiny hats for premature babies.

"The prisoners wanted to help and when I said I could teach them how to crochet they jumped at it," said Ms Green.

The group began with basic crochet skills but have now nearly all mastered the chain-stitch, slip-knot, trebles and doubles.

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"It's hard to imagine a group of burly prisoners all sitting together crocheting, but it is happening in Maghaberry, and they're totally engaged," she said.

"During the classes you can hear them chatting about casting the yarn, slip-knots and patterns."

She said the lifelong skill was a boost for the men.

"It really does lift their self-esteem when they know they're giving something back to the community," she said.

Maghaberry Prison Governor David Savage said it was an important group.

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"Rehabilitation is a major part of prisons today and there are many ways in which we engage and challenge those in our care to change," he said.

"By reducing reoffending we can make this a better place to live for everyone."

Maghaberry Prison Governor David Savage said it was an important group.

"Rehabilitation is a major part of prisons today and there are many ways in which we engage and challenge those in our care to change," he said.

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"By reducing reoffending we can make this a better place to live for everyone."

Julie McConville, from the Southern Health Trust, said the donation of the hats was gratefully received.

"These hats are great to keep our newborn babies warm in our special care baby unit, neonatal unit and general maternity wards in Craigavon and Daisy Hill hospitals," she said.

"We're delighted the group have been able to use their skills and time to support local families."

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