By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE - Snyder County’s female inmates have saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars and helped local charities by picking up crochet hooks, officials say.
Started in 2009, the crochet program continues to keep inmates occupied as they create five to 10 blankets each month. The blankets are donated to hospitals, senior centers and churches.
An added bonus is the cost savings to the county, said Joe Kantz, chairman of the county commissioners.
He said the crochet program helped slash health care and related expenses by about $160,000 in the first two years due to the warning that yarn and plastic hooks would be taken away if the inmates engaged in fighting.
Warden Ruth Rush said prior to the program being introduced, corrections officers had to break up about one fight a month that often required outside medical attention and staff overtime.
In the four years since, she said, there have been no physical altercations among the women.
Instead, much of their spare time is spent making blankets, hats, mittens and other items using donated yarn.
One inmate recently spent two weeks crocheting a large afghan that will be raffled for charity at the 85th annual Beaver Community Fair in Beaver Springs that begins Sunday.
Blankets are donated monthly to newborns and seniors, and organizations also make special requests for items such as the slippers for cancer victims. Those were recently commissioned by a cancer survivor support group.
Commissioner Malcolm Derk said the inmates are often grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community.
“We’ve gotten some wonderful letters from former inmates,” he said, citing one note from a parent who said the program allowed her to reconnect with her children by giving her a chance to make something for them despite being locked up.
Prison clerk Beverly Foltz said more yarn is needed and asked that donations be brought to the jail at 600 Old Colony Road in Selinsgrove.