When Raquell Guimaraes, a Brazilian fashion designer was short on staff and needed to boost production for her clothing line, she turned to the inmates at the Ariosvaldo Campos Pires for workers.
The idea was launched in 2009. Now 20 prisoners are taking part in the Lotus Flower Project.
Guimaraes, a local designer in the State of Minas Gerais, teaches inmates the art of knitting and crocheting. The finished items are exported to France, the United States, Japan and other countries.
Former prison inmate, Celio Tavares was convicted of armed robbery. He started knitting as part of the Lotus Flower Project:
“The program gives inmates skills and confidence they can use when they return to life on the outside. This raises the self-esteem of the prisoners, and opens the door to work and employment for everyone else,” he said.
The prisoners have a starting salary of 75 per cent of Brazil’s minimum wage. One quarter of the money is put aside, accessible only when they are freed.
However, perhaps the most enticing for the inmates is that for every three days work of knitting they do, they have one day taken off their sentence.