In the United Kingdom, Fine Cell Work‘s mission is “to rehabilitate prisoners by giving them the opportunity to earn and save money and the chance to reflect on and rebuild their lives through craft and achievement. Prisoners do Fine Cell Work for an average of 3 years: the benefits can therefore be profound.” They want to establish a tradition of skilled craftswork in prisons.
The prisoners work in a variety of techniques, including needlepoint. Currently about 80% of the participants are men, working in 26 prisons. The inmates are taught by volunteer teachers and most classes have waiting lists.
The stitchers spend an average of 20 hours per week doing embroidery in their cells. The highest earners stitch for as long as 40 hours. “It is a way of life that enables them to serve their time with dignity and purpose.” According to one officer, “Fine Cell Work gives these men dignity in work and through this, dignity in life. When a man gains self-respect he may start addressing his offending behaviour.”
The organization was, according to their site, “founded by Lady Anne Tree, who first had the idea in the 1960’s when she was a prison visitor at HMP Holloway. With the help of the Royal School of Needlework she enabled two lifers to make needlepoint carpets which were then sold as collectors items in New York. However, in those days the prisoners were not allowed to receive money for the work. This determined Lady Anne to establish an organisation in which prisoners could learn a skill to the highest level and be paid for their efforts.” Today participants in the program have earned almost 62,000 pounds.
In their shop, they have a wide variety of products including pillows based on DeMorgan tiles, ones from designers like Allegra Hicks, Nina Campbell, and Cath Kidson, pillows based on tatoos, and some with song lyrics. There are rugs, cards, and many other items. I could browse there for ages.
The also accept commissions for custom needlework. These include interior design, ecclesiastical, quilts, and finishing your unfinished needlepoint. On every page of the site you can see lovely examples of their work.
If they had more resources, they could serve more prisons as they have many prisons looking to implement programs and many people wanting to teach. You can support them from a link on their website.