'It has changed my life' - Bledsoe Co. inmates crochet items to donate to local community

Inmate Scarlett Nolan crochets blankets to donate. (Image: WTVC)

A group of women inmates at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex spends up to five hours a day crocheting items to donate to local charities.

They are currently making blankets for nursing home residents. We spoke with them as they worked.

"Somebody is really going to enjoy this," inmate Scarlett Nolan said.

Wearing their matching TDOC uniforms, the six women work as a team.

"Some things I use patterns for and some things I just do out of my head," Nolan said.

Scarlett has been incarcerated since 2015.

It's not an easy life, especially being away from her four children.

"Being away from our families that is the worst thing probably, having to be in here and be away from your family."

Crocheting helps the women cope with being locked up.

"I had a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety built up, a lot of boredom," Nolan said. "It was a hard time but whenever I discovered crocheting it made me happy."

Recreational Specialist Staci Willey started the program about a year ago. It's a way for the inmates to give back to the local community.

"The way I look at these ladies is they're already in here for doing their crime, I can't judge them for already committing the crime," Willey said. "I'm here to rehabilitate them and to have a positive impact on their lives in order to help them when they get out."

The women return the respect for their boss, affectionately calling her Ms. Willey.

"She really works hard for us," Nolan said. "She sticks up for us and that means the world."

So far they've made red hats for babies in the hospital, scarves for the volunteer chaplains who donate the yarn and animal blankets for all the children at Van Buren County Head Start.

The children made a big thank you card for the women. Teacher Elsie Blaylock says the blankets really helped the kids come out of their shells.

"Every one of them wanted to sleep with it that day, every one of them," Blaylock said. "Some of them even bring it back daily to sleep with on their cots."

Click here to see video posted to the TDOC Facebook page showing the children receiving the blankets.

As for Scarlett, she plans to keep crocheting and hopes to work in the medical field when she gets out in a few months.

"I've changed a lot and I want to show that in every way that I possibly can," Nolan said. "I feel like I can express myself through this."

TDOC pays the women up to 50 cents an hour while they're working.

The women must maintain a good behavior record to keep their jobs.

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