Arohata Prison quilting group honoured

  • 19/01/2014

Two Wellington women have been honoured for leading a programme that teaches women prisoners the art of quilting.

The Shut-in Stitchers have been visiting Arohata Prison for more than 20 years, and it's so popular inmates are on a waiting list to join the programme.

The patient, careful art of quilt-making isn't quite hard prison labour, but it's what the Shut-in Stitchers, led by Janet Forbes and June Nixey, have been doing at Arohata Prison for two decades. 

"We are not do-gooders or social workers," says Ms Nixey. "We do not talk down to the women. We are here because we love making quilts."

The Shut-in Stitchers have been so successful at sharing their love of quilting that there are more willing inmates than spaces available.

"The girls were saying today [that] someone said to them, 'Can you get me into a class early?'" says Ms Nixey.

For prisoners, it offers a chance to make something they're actually proud of.

"It's a great gift to give to family," says one participant. "Can't do anything else for them."

And with many prisoners lacking confidence, such an achievement is a real boost.

"Because that's a big element, if it's just to realise they can do things," says Ms Forbes.

Prisoners also pick up skills from working together and planning the quilt-making and even have to work on their maths because of the precise measurements involved.

"It takes a long time," says prison manager Ann Abraham. "If you make a mistake you have to be able to go back and fix it. These are all skills they can take home with them to help them stop reoffending."

Ms Forbes and Ms Nixey received Queen's Service Medals in the New Year's Honours list – recognition they accepted on behalf of all the Shut-in Stitchers volunteers.

"We are going to take if for the programme," says Ms Forbes. "It's a fantastic accolade."

It's an accolade welcomed by many of Arohata's prisoners, who've picked up new skills from the Shut-in Stitchers.

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source: newshub archive


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