SLCO Sheriffs Office
Eric Hall wears a crocheted cap made by inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail. He is receiving treatment for a stomach problem.

They've taught classes on art and gardening skills. Now officials at the Salt Lake County Jail are using crocheting in their continuing effort to rehabilitate inmates rather than just warehouse them.

Earlier this month, jail officials and members of the LDS Church, who co-sponsor the program, presented Primary Children's Medical Center with a number of crocheted items that female inmates had been working on for the past year.

A total of 31 blankets, six scarves, 20 caps and three shawls were donated to the hospital. The final products were the result of the cumulative efforts of more than 100 women at the jail.

In many cases a female inmate would start a blanket, then be released from jail. The rest of the blanket would be finished by another inmate.

The crocheting class was started a little more than two years ago. Members of the Second Metro Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints help teach the class, which usually consists of a dozen minimum security women inmates at a time.

Program directors say the goal is to give the women a productive way to spend their time while incarcerated. Directors hope it may help empower them so they don't re-offend once they're released.

"The girls have been wonderful," said program director Linda Pugmire. "Many say it brings back memories for them. It also teaches them a skill. They say, 'I'm going to do this when I get out."'

All items used by the inmates to make the scarves and blankets were donated by the community.

The crochet program is one of several new classes being offered at the jail in an attempt to teach prisoners a skill and boost their self-confidence so when they're released they won't fall back into old habits that get them in trouble.

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