Friday, December 28, 2007

Good on 'Em . . . Really

A good idea that should spread. Like now.

A handful of Hutchinson prison inmates are helping warm the homeless with old prison blues.

The inmates are recycling used prison clothing to make blankets and have teamed with the Salvation Army in Hutchinson to distribute the thick twin-bed-sized blankets to those in need.

The shirts, pants and blanket-lined jean jackets worn by inmates already are made within the state’s prisons. Now, when the clothes wear out, they’ll get a second life, said Hutchinson Correctional Facility Warden Sam Cline.

“The idea came up after Governor Kathleen Sebelius encouraged all state agencies to recycle whatever they could,” Cline said. “We threw away a lot of fabric.”

The blankets project began earlier this month and has been a learning process, said Chris Merritt, the prison’s business manager and engineer of the project, who also quilts as a hobby.
The first blanket weighed about 40 pounds, Merritt said. Its top and bottom were made of pieced jean material, with two blankets in between.

Now each blanket includes a top made of recycled shirts, a bottom of material from inmate pants and coats — as well as some khaki material from correctional officers’ retired pants — and an old sheet and a recycled blanket in the middle.

The process starts by ripping apart and sorting the old clothing. Some inmates then square up the pieces, while others lay them out in a pattern on the concrete floor of the prison’s receiving warehouse.

The inmates piece together a top and bottom, add decorations, and then sew the blanket together.

The inmates have produced about two blankets a day.

“We have a steady flow of fabric, with 1,800 men here,” Cline said.

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