Giving back: RCI’s Restorative Justice Program helps inmates help others
Jul 28, 2011
On a recent Friday morning, 13 inmates at the Racine Correctional Institution in Sturtevant diligently worked on their needlework, their nimble fingers pulling together tiny stitches or weaves. The fruits of their toil lay strewn about the tables: a Mickey Mouse look-alike, a doll, random bears and other stuffed animals, as well as scarves, hats and more slowly took shape.
Those bears and lamb pillows have made their way into little hands around the community, and those mittens and gloves will keep others warm this winter.
Charity Crafts is part of the prison’s Restorative Justice Program, through which inmates find ways to give back to the community, according to Tommie Thomas, RCI program supervisor.
Inmates make stuffed animals, toys, blankets and more out of materials like yarn donated to the prison and those are then distributed to community organizations to give to children in need.
Some of those bears went to the Salvation Army a month ago. More than 300 were given out to needy children since then as gifts, along with birthday boxes including party supplies and cake mixes that were donated by the Racine County Food Bank.
It put smiles on a lot of faces, said Cindy Nelson, social services aide at the local Salvation Army, 1901 Washington Ave.
“With the economy, a lot of people can’t afford birthday parties for their children,” she said.
And that’s why the inmates do it — sit around in the non-air-conditioned room painstakingly laboring over each stitch or weave for anywhere between 19 cents and 26 cents an hour.
“It’s one small way to give back,” said Scott Albrecht, 38, working on his 621st bear. Keeping track is something he does, as well as growing out his wavy brown hair for Locks of Love. It’s almost down to his waist.
“I try to stay positive,” he said. “It’s not always easy in here, but I do what I can.”