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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Spreading the word

I've been doing some guest blogging this week for our friends at the Improve TX Citizens Coalition blog. The Improve TX blog covers issues related to TDCJ, and currently has a couple of petitions that you can sign. One is asking for TDCJ inmates to be permitted to make overseas calls on the new inmate phone system (a subject close to our hearts), another is to limit the current 40% kickback that Securus receives as part of its deal to provide the TDCJ inmate phone system, and the third petition is to allow inmates to receive wedding bands if they marry after they enter TDCJ, and to allow weddings to be carried out on TDCJ property. Currently inmates can only retain a wedding band if they have it at intake, and all inmate weddings must be conducted as proxy weddings.

Check out my guest post here.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

When is a duvet cover not a duvet cover?

When it's a bath mat!

My daughter had a duvet cover that has seen better days. The ribbon embroidery had started to come undone, there were bleach spots (no idea how they got there) and the fabric was worn in places. Since we try to recycle and reuse as much as possible, I decided to make a bath mat from the fabric instead of throwing the cover away.

I first removed the buttons. These go into my button tin. Every grandma should have a button tin. Kids can spend hours on a rainy afternoon sorting through old buttons, putting them into shape, size and colour groups and patterns.

Next I cut the duvet cover into very long lengths of fabric. Most people will tell you to make slits at 1 inch intervals along one edge of fabric and rip the pieces so that you get even-width lengths. You then have to sew the lengths together to make "yarn". This was going to be a very simple bath mat, so I decided just to cut on a gradual spiral, roughly 1 inch wide, until I got to the top of the duvet cover. Then I cut along the top edge so that I had 1 continuous length of fabric to work with. As the side seams would naturally unravel because I had cut through the stitching, I just tied knots in the fabric to secure the seam pieces.

Next I took the biggest crochet hook I own (9 mm I think) and made a magic loop. I made 8 single chain stitches, and then worked in the round, increasing regularly by working 2 stitches into one hole until I ran out of yarn. The inner rounds are single chain, and the outer rounds are trebles.


The finished bath mat is approximately 24 inches in diameter.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

More benefits of knitting (and other arts)

Some may think that prisons and knitting make strange bedfellows when it comes to interests or associations. I've posted before about the volunteer group in Maryland called Knitting Behind Bars who run knitting sessions inside men's prisons in the state. A couple of days ago I became aware of another group who use knitting along with other arts and crafts, to offer groups of female inmates in Texas a way of expressing themselves safely and learning social and life skills to help them stay out of jail in the future.

Resolana are the group, a not-for-profit organisation who work mainly in Dallas County Jail and Dawson State Jail in Texas. Take a look at their programmes and also at the gallery of art work by some of the women that Resolana have helped. I particularly love the Good Girl, Bad Girl dolls!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

All around the world

A post for the sake of it really, but I wanted to say thank you and hello to everyone who reads this blog around the world. According to the stats Google provide, I have readers in Estonia, Romania, Germany, Thailand, Australia and Canada, as well as the more expected British and American visitors. So welcome to you all and don't forget to leave your thoughts on any of the topics I cover here!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Hidden bureaucratic costs of TDCJ (where some of those Texas tax dollars are spent)

There has been a lot of talk about TDCJ saving money by closing Central Unit this year, and reducing costs in TDCJ education and treatment programmes. What you rarely hear about is how TDCJ could trim expenditure by reviewing and improving its current archaic bureaucracy.

Hubby had a hotpot, bought legally, which broke in November 2010. He had got it when he first arrived at his current unit, 5 years ago. Hotpots are the inmate's means of heating water to make coffee and warming up pre-cooked food pouches.

When the hotpot broke, he threw it out, because to keep it would risk him getting a minor case for having something that had been altered (ie, something that was no longer working). He went to commisarry to order a new one, and was informed that he would have to trade in his old broken one. Obviously, he no longer had it. So he had to request that the original property slip from 4 years previous be sent to the Commisarry clerk, because no hotpot would be issued until they had proof that he had already had one.

Hotpots can take a while to be delivered, just like radios and other large items.

Every time Hubby went to commisarry, he asked if his hotpot had arrived and was told no, up until April 2011 (5 months since his original request). Then the response became "Yes, but we need your original property slip and that's not here".

It wasn't there because Hubby had to authorise 10c (yes, 10 cents) to be deducted from his account by cheque from Huntsville, after the hotpot arrived and not before, to be sent to the main commisarry department in TDCJ by internal mail, before the commisarry clerk at Hubby's unit could issue the new hotpot. She could not deduct the 10c as part of the transaction, it had to be raised as a cheque and sent to another department.

Hubby finally got his new hotpot in May 2011.

TDCJ currently house around 150,000 inmates. Let's hope their hotpots dont all break at the same time, otherwise TDCJ will also be broke just from the expence of transporting those 10c cheques around the state.