The Blanket Project at Maine’s Long Creek Youth Development Center has delinquent teens handling crochet hooks, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The program includes teens incarcerated for attempted murder, arson, gun-running, drug sales, and more. At Long Creek, juvenile offenders are allowed second, third, fourth, and more chances to correct their ways. The Blanket Project is for those who earn it through good behavior – and once involved, they’re careful not to lose the privilege. “Crocheting makes me feel good,” says a 19-year-old arsonist who burned a field “because I was mad at someone.”
“It helps the kids build those skills they’ve not been exposed to at all, or have had no opportunity to practice,” says Dan Reardon, former CEO of the Bass shoe company who has volunteered 20 hours a week here as a mentor for more than a decade. “To create something from beginning to end, being able to give to their families and communities, talking for hours and hours – those are all social skills that will help make them successful outside. That’s restorative justice – to make everybody whole.” The blankets are largely given back to the communities in which crimes were committed. They go to homeless shelters, day-care centers, and retirement homes. The facility has a low rate of recidivism. About 85 percent of youths released from Long Creek in the past year and a half have not been recommitted, compared with a national average of just over 50 percent.