Do you know about Fine Cell Work? It’s sort of a play on words, because the cells involved are prison cells, and the fine work is the knitting, sewing, embroidery and other needlecrafts done by the inmates.
Fine Cell Work’s mission is thus:
Fine Cell Work trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells to foster hope, discipline and self esteem. This helps them to connect to society and to leave prison with the confidence and financial means to stop offending.
More than 75% of the prisoners involved in this project are men, and the studies have shown that those participating in the FCW project have significantly decreased incidents of violence, aggression and other negative behaviours. The work is of the highest quality, as the prisoners are taught by members of the Embroiderers and Quilters Guild. The prisoners are paid for each project they complete, learning a skill and helping to support their families.
Recently, big-name craft designers including Nicky Haslam, Cath Kidston and Daisy de Villeneuve have created projects specifically for the FCW workers to stitch up. FCW has recently received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. All of the teachers at FCW are volunteers, and many have been with the program for its full 15 years of existence.
In this Olympic year, there was a tie-in to FCW, when one of the prisoners worked for more than a year on a quilt to present to one of the competing countries as part of a project where each country received a hand-made quilt. He fashioned his quilt in the tradition of the American Gee’s Bend quilts, and it was given to the Spanish flag-bearer.
I think that FCW is an incredible project, and a win-win for both the prisoners and the recipients of their fine handwork. I’d love to see something like FCW in the USA.