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Inmates Create Clothing For Premature Babies

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Inmates in Wilsonville, Oregon are making one-of-a-kind clothing for premature babies.

Female inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Institute have created a functional yet adorable clothing line in partnership with the Salem Health and Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE).

With the help of NICU nurses, the women were able to design sleepers that didn't conflict with the preemies's wires and tubes attached to their fragile frames, while also being comfortable to wear.

Before this project came into fruition, nurses had to take time out of their day to browse local retailers, and search for the limited clothing options for the tiny newborns.

"You don't want a NICU nurse out shopping when they're supposed to be doing their job,"� Jonathan Fetterley, Salem Hospital's former linens services supervisor, told KHOU.

Nine women make up the team, which is part of OCE's textiles program at the prison. The program trains inmates in the basics of sewing, embroidery and quilting, where the most skilled participants are offered a spot on the production team.

Only a few had a background in textiles, with the majority learning the trade from scratch.

"In the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error,"� Team trainer Tammy Traxtle said. "We made templates and then it was a matter of resizing and re-cutting, resizing and re-cutting."�

On Dec. 12, the first shipment of customized clothes was brought to the hospital, which garnered the team rave reviews from the staff.

"They make these clothes with a lot of love," OCE General Manager Dave Conway said. "It's not a sweatshop. These women want to be here. Sometimes in our world, people mumble and grown about Mondays. Here, they are lining up on Monday."

Twins Aurora and Phoenix were born more than four weeks premature, but have been thriving in their new clothes, and this couldn't make the team feel any better.

Aurora and Phoenix
Anna Reed/Statesman Journal

"�For the entire team, this is special to us,"� Traxtle said. "We've all given birth. We've all been incarcerated over a year and away from our children. Being a part of a team that gets to make baby clothes has been powerful for all of us."�

Maya has been working at Shared for a year. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com