Ostensibly, prison is supposed to be about rehabilitation. You would never know it at some institutions, though. But one in Washington is taking that goal to heart.
And it’s doing it with bees.
Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock, Washington is home to a beekeeping program that teaches inmates about green practices and trains them in a skill they can use after rejoining society. The program even works with Olympia Bee Keeper’s Association to fund a beekeeping apprentice certification.
It’s one of the more coveted jobs inside in the prison and is quickly becoming a great way to build a rapport between the inmates and prison staff.
“It gives me an open communication line we can talk about and share,” Glenn Epling, corrections officer and program instructor, told the King 5 news station. “It helps me bring something to these inmates that I’m finding out they’re very interested in.”
Many of the inmates didn’t know a thing about bees before working in the program. Now, they can spot diseases, pests, and healthy gathering of pollen. They’ve also learned how to effectively collect honey and wax and turn them into marketable products.
“You have the opportunity to actually advance yourself when you get out of here,” inmate Jack Boysen said. “You have the potential to turn this into a career when you get out.”
The program is part of Washington’s Sustainability in Prisons Project, which was formally started in 2008 at four prisons. Currently, each of the state’s 12 prisons and around 3,000 inmates participate in the program. It includes environmental initiatives other than beekeeping like butterfly breeding and flower growing.
Joslyn Rose Trivett, who works for the Sustainability in Prisons Project, said the program is giving inmates hope.
“A lot of the people who are incarcerated are struggling with the feeling of being thrown away and discarded by society,” Trivett said. However, she said the program has shown them, “There is value in every material and every resource and every animal and plant and certainly in every person.”