Jail program trains inmates to become beekeepers

AUSTIN (KXAN) – From one jumpsuit to another, a new Travis County program is training inmates to become beekeepers after their release from prison.

The American Honey Bee Protection Agency graduated their first class of inmates Friday at the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle. AHBPA is a non-profit Austin organization dedicated to saving honeybees at risk for extinction.

Inmates enrolled in the program learn how to tend to local beehives through on-hands experience.

After the 120-hour training, inmates are certified to work as beekeepers and are even offered jobs with beekeeping organizations around the area.

“People think that law enforcement is all about locking people up and throwing away the key. That’s not our philosophy here,” said Sheriff Greg Hamilton. “I tell our officers on a regular basis that just because these individuals are here in our facility doesn’t make them bad people. They made a bad choice, they got caught and this is their consequence.”

The program is designed to make inmates more marketable once they are released.

“It’s the equivalent of a two-years associates degree. I thought to myself, ‘well I’m going to be here for a little while, so why not?'” said graduating inmate Randy Baldazo.

“I took it as something to do during the day but it progressed into a genuine interest. I didn’t know anything about the honey bee. Eventually, that turned into a six-week course and now I’m here now graduating.”

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