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Maryland Women Prisoners Sew Commemorative 1812 Flags

In July 2011, prisoners at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup were busy sewing 1812-style flags to be flown at Maryland public buildings.

The plan was to replace the state’s old flags with the 1812-style flags, which have 15 stars and 15 stripes, in time for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The women prisoners engaged in that task are employed with Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE).

According to MCE public relations officer Renata Seergae, “The goal is to train [prisoners] ... so when they are released they don’t wind up back in here.” According to Seergae, the women who work in the sewing program produce approximately 700 state and U.S. flags a year, and are paid between $1.25 and $3.85 per hour.

Prisoners who were interviewed indicated they were proud of their work. One, Julia Applegate, said she had been sewing flags for three years and enjoyed the fact that they would be flown in front of Maryland state buildings.

Another, Natasha Fowlkes, was responsible for supervising and training the other prisoners. She said she had no prior sewing experience before she came to prison, but now appreciates the technical beauty inherent in flags. She mentioned that she hoped to be a “professional flag lady” one day.

There are, however, relatively few freeworld businesses that manufacture flags. While prison industry programs purportedly teach prisoners job skills to assist with their reentry to society following their release, the MCE’s flag program appears to benefit the state – which receives low-cost flags – more than the women prisoners who produce them.

Source: Baltimore Sun

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