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Inmates make and design quilts for a cause

Stacy M. Brown | 5/15/2015, 6 a.m.
Sirilar Stokes, an inmate at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, first started trying her hand at quilting about three months ...
Sirilar Stokes, an inmate at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup is among a dozen female inmates who worked for months on crafting 150 quilts that will be donated to the St. Ann's Center for Children, Youth and Families in Hyattsville and the St. Vincent Villa, which is part of the Catholic Charities of Baltimore. The quilt program is one of many restorative justice programs offered by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. (Courtesy Photos/Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services)

Sirilar Stokes, an inmate at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, first started trying her hand at quilting about three months ago.

After all, it was another to pass the time while helping some local charities. Stokes warmed quickly to the idea while she sat inside what could probably described as a cold and sterile environment.

The quilt program is one of many restorative justice programs offered by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

(Courtesy Photos/Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services)

The quilt program is one of many restorative justice programs offered by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

“I needed something to do,” she said. “And, once I got started, I saw it as a means to obtain peace and calmness.”

Stokes counted among the dozen female inmates who worked for months on crafting the 150 quilts that will be donated to the St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families in Hyattsville and the St. Vincent Villa, which is part of the Catholic Charities of Baltimore.

“This is just one of many restorative justice programs at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services,” said department spokeswoman Renata Seergae.

“Many men and women only realize the pain they have caused once they have spent some time behind bars. This program is a way to give back to those they have harmed in the past,” Seergae said. “Even if they are not directly giving back to their victims, the hope is they are giving something back to society and trying to help right the wrongs they have done.”

The Maryland Department of Public Safety opened up the Patuxent facility to the press on Friday, May 8, as the women busily stitched together the last of the quilts.

Stokes served as the spokesperson for the other inmates in the quilting group.

She said she found delight in knowing that her work would assist children.

“[It’s with] great pleasure that it will put a smile on a child’s face,” she said. “A child, who doesn’t have much, but a child who will know that the quilt that I’m making is his or hers.”

The quilt program is the brainchild of Dr. Erin Shaffer, the director of Behavioral Sciences at Patuxent Institution who took a period quilt to a local shop to have it repaired.

As shop owner Inge Stocklin decided to close her local quilt business, Shaffer asked Inge to restore one of her quilts.

To her credit, officials said, Shaffer recognized great potential value in creating a quilting program for female inmates. Also, they said Stocklin didn’t appear hesitant at the thought of coming into prison.

Seergae and other prison officials said the quilting program has served to help boost morale by allowing inmates to participate in a positive social activity.

It also has allowed those incarcerated to learn a new skill and understand the meaning of giving back to the community, officials said.

This year marked the 15th time that prison officials staged a quilt show. To date, inmates at the facility have donated about 850 quilts to various charities

Two years ago, quilts that were made by the inmates were among those displayed and judged for their beauty at the Howard County Fair.

Without knowing the source of the quilts, judges awarded ribbons to two of them.

Sister Mary Bader, the director of St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville and a previous quilt recipient told correction officials how much the quilts meant to the young mothers and children at St. Ann’s.

“You need to know that your labor of love is being carried back to St. Ann’s,” Bader said. “Your life is being changed, and you’re also changing the lives of our teen moms.”