Hardened Criminals Knit Behind Bars

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Dozens of Inmates Turned into Knitting Converts

In Maryland, two retirees are converting male prisoners to the zen of the knitting stitch. This softer side of the convicts is brought out by Lynn Zwerling and Sheila Rovelstad.

They visit the Jessup Pre-Release Unit (JPRU) in Jessup, Maryland, every Thursday. The “Knitting Behind Bars” program grew from Lynn and Sheila’s passion for their chosen obsession: knitting.

Building on their success with their knitting program for the male prisoners, they are now looking to replicate the success with the female prisoners.

The Story of Knitting Behind Bars

Before retiring Lynn had a stressful career and found that knitting was much more than just a hobby:

“When I learned how to knit I saw that I’d think about it all day. I could get through most anything, any stress… because I knew I could go home and knit.”

Once retired, she started a knitting group with over 500 members. Seeing the calming effect the knitting had as well as how knitting could bring together people who had nothing in common but a love of knitting, she wondered what knitting could do for people who had never been exposed to knitting. This lead to the “Knitting Behind Bars” project being born.

They were met with a lot of resistance but were finally, after 5 years, given the opportunity by JPRU to prove that knitting could contribute to the well-being of the prisoners.

Just as Lynn had predicted, the men that attended the weekly, two-hour class immediately started to experience knitting’s calming effects. An atmosphere of focus and normalcy effortlessly interrupted the monotony of daily life in prison.

“They come in, they’re kind of worked up, they’ll sit down and just calm right down.”

There has been an additional benefit: the opportunity to practice social skills often cast aside behind bars. Lynn believes that knitting is an “opportunity to practice, to hone their social skills… there’s no such thing as socializing in jail.”

The program is now so popular that there is a waiting list to get on it …

Watch this inspiring video and see the prisoners in action, knitting!


Knitting Behind Bars is looking to begin a similar program at the woman’s prison in Jessup. They are looking for volunteers and donation of #8 16 inch circular needles and new worsted weight yarn.

For more information on Knitting Behind Bars visit their website (knittingbehindbars.blogspot.com). Volunteers and those interested in donating to Knitting behind bars can put requests through their website.

Source: Bus52

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