A few decades ago, most prisons had farms. Inmates grew some of their own food while learning a few basic skills. That changed for a number of reasons, partly because of the tendency to lock everyone up if they couldn’t afford a good lawyer. Just too many people in the system to consider proper rehabilitation and training.
Kingston, Ontario, has Canada’s most notorious prisons. Hardened criminals are sent there for long sentences. Recently, farms began to reappear at maximum security penitentiaries in Kingston. Collins Bay and Joyceville Institutions each have ten colonies of bees on their farms. These are not part of a “Save the Bees” effort. It’s a “Save the People” program.
Beekeeping can be so much more than a business or hobby. Handling bees can calm a person, focus the mind, and lead to keen and sustained interest in nature. Skills related to beekeeping include carpentry (making hive equipment), animal husbandry, marketing, food safety. Character traits that are fostered include self-discipline, courage, and responsibility.
Bees are non-judgmental, giving everyone an equal chance to fail or succeed in their presence. Prison farms are learning to use honey bees as a gateway to healing and reform. It’s great to see these Kingston, Ontario, initiatives.