Inmates Sewing Pride On Flag Day
WBAL-AM - Online

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Flag Day, 2011 finds women inmates making U.S. flags and Maryland State flags .

Beyond the barriers of security at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup there is a room filled with large tables, sewing machines and inmates making flags of various sizes.

Maryland inmates have been making U.S. flags and Maryland State flags for almost 70 years. The flags cost from $30 to $58. However, state law dictates that only state agencies and non profit organizations can purchase them.

One of the flags that hangs in this room is destined to fly over the State House in Annapolis. It was made by Natasha Fowlkes, a Harford County woman who is serving 28 years for assault. Fowlkes says she never paid much attention to the flag until she started working in the sew shop about 3 years ago. Now, she has new found respect for what the flag stands for and Fowlkes appreciates every flag she sees because she understands the work that goes into making one.

Fowlkes says she has become personally attached to the flags that she has made and would like to find a job making flags once she completes her incarceration.

The Sew Shop is part of Maryland Correctional Enterprises. The mission is to provide structured employment and training for offenders in order to improve their employment chances upon release. The handful of inmates who make flags are part of the 2,047 inmates employed by Maryland Correctional Enterprises. The "flagline" women, as they are referred to, begin work at 7am each day and work until 1:30pm. They are paid anywhere from $1.25 to $3.80 per day for their services.

Renata Seergae of Maryland Correctional Enterprises says inmates who are working on flags must maintain a certain level of behavior inside the prison and can loose the ability to work should they be involved in an infraction. But she adds statistically an inmate working for Maryland Correctional Enterprises will have a better chance of staying out of prison once they are released because of what they have learned while employed in the prison system.