Prison beekeeping course helps inmates turn lives around

A surprising species is helping prisoners turn their lives around - the humble bee.

Auckland inmates have been learning how to become beekeepers, and while they're surrounded by swarms of the flying insects, they're not in the least bit fazed.

"It's just lovely to teach something you're passionate about to people who want to learn and just absorb everything that you give them," tutor Brian Alexander said.

Mr Alexander's been beekeeping for 40 years, and for 18 months he's been passing that knowledge on to prisoners.

"Their skill level is really good. I'm just so proud of them," he said.

His instruction has been appreciated in return.

"Brian's been fantastic. He's a great source of information," one prisoner told Newshub.

"We've fed off each other; he's learnt some stuff from me, and I've learnt an awful lot from him."

The beekeeping course means when they get out, the prisoners have an employment path - and in one case, it helped a prisoner gain parole. 

Another prisoner, who has already passed a basic literacy course, will now also leave prison as a certified beekeeper.

Beekeeping in New Zealand is a $5 billion industry and it's growing, but it's currently importing labour from overseas.

The Howard League has been running educational programmes in prisons for six years, and it says this course has promise.

"They will have no problems getting a job when they get out, and their chance of reoffending is cut on half. That's what it's all about," Mr Alexander said.

The prisoners also had a bet - whoever gets stung first owes the rest a packet of biscuits.

"That was about halfway through the year, when the packet of chocolate biscuits appeared, so there wasn't too many stings," Mr Alexander said.

"I got stung," one inmate admitted, "but I was pretty short of a Tim Tam. Sorry guys, I'll fork out for the Tim Tams next week."


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