Raquel Guimaraes, Brazillian Fashion Designer, Hires High-Security Prison Inmates To Produce Her Line

Brazil's prisoners at Arisvaldo de Campos Pires maximum security penitentiary have a new past time: creating fine-quality crochet.

The collaboration is managed by Brazilian fashion designer Raquel Guimaraes, who hires these inmates to produce her line, and allows the prisoners to take one day off their sentence for every three days of knitting they perform in addition to earning money. In fact, the participating prisoners are given a relatively fair salary of 75 percent of Brazil's minimum wage. What's more, a quarter of what they earn is put aside and given to them upon their release.

Raquel Guimaraes came up with the idea in 2009 after she had trouble finding knitters for her label, Doiselles, which specializes in intricate knitting and crochet work. She first trained 18 prisoners--whose sentences ranged from robbery to murder--for the Flor de Lotus ("Lotus Flower") Project. The hand-made pieces are sold in 70 stores in Brazil and globally in American, France and Japan.

The project not only benefits Raquel Guimaraes, but also the inmates, as they are given the chance to hone a craft which can help them find a job after they are released.

Former prison inmate Celio Tavares, who was jailed for armed robbery, said the project boosts prisoners' chances of finding a job when their sentences are up.

"The program gives inmates skills and confidence they can use when they return to life on the outside," said former prison inmate Celio Tavares. "This raises the self-esteem of the prisoners, and opens the door to work and employment for everyone else."

Since created, nearly 100 inmates have taken up the knitting challenge over the past four years. Raquel Guimaraes explains that for her, this project is a way for the prisoners to be viewed as something other than criminals.

"The remission of the sentence gives them the value of redeeming freedom, integrity and confidence," said Raquel Guimaraes. "They are able to do any work and produce very well."

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Susmita Baral

Susmita Baral joined Latin Times in April 2013. Her work has been published in VICE, Weight Watchers Magazine, Unique Homes Magazine, US Airways Magazine, Vista Magazine, Daily Glow and Kaplan. She holds a B.A. Psychology from Rutgers University. A self-proclaimed foodie, Susmita is a freelance list maker, part-time Shaq devotee, and a full-time eyeliner junkie who believes mac and cheese is a birthright.