GDC Launches New Beekeeping Program
Course written by Smith State Prison inmate
FORSYTH, Ga. – On August 6, 2015, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) began classes for a Beekeeping program that has been in development since an inmate from Smith State Prison hatched the idea in 2012. In partnership with the University of Georgia, this program provides inmates the opportunity to become certified beekeepers. In the past few months, the program has expanded to three more prisons across the state of Georgia: Lee Arrendale, Dooly and Ware State Prisons.
“It is truly amazing to see the vision of one of our offenders develop into a program that is now offered to offenders across the state of Georgia,” said Commissioner Bryson. “We are excited about our partnership with the University of Georgia, which will allow these offenders to become certified beekeepers.”
In August 2012, an inmate shared the idea of starting a beekeeping program at Smith State Prison. He wrote a course of study that the University of Georgia is now editing and approving. In the early stages of the program, the facility purchased items and gathered donations from local bee clubs to create cardboard beehives. The inmates utilized their talents to write detailed, practical instruction on how to make a beehive. From there, the idea flourished and the Inmate Services division began implementation of the Beekeeping course.
Smith State Prison’s current class started August 6, 2015 with 17 students. Following in Smith’s footsteps, this year, Dooly State Prison on March 3 with 15 students and Lee Arrendale State Prison began classes on March 15 with 24 students. Ware State Prison is scheduled to begin classes soon. Upon completion, the University of Georgia will administer the same Certified Beekeeper exam (http://www.ent.uga.edu/bees/master-beekeeper/levels.html#certified) that is taken statewide.
The prisons are planning to work together to make the most out of this new program. Ware State Prison will utilize their wood working shop to build the hives and Smith State Prison will be in charge of raising the queen bees.
Beekeeping is a fruitful industry and certified beekeepers can specialize in several different areas, from building equipment, selling equipment, producing honey, producing queens for package and sale, bee removal, and producing hives for start up.
“Hands-on experience engages inmates, making them eager to study and succeed,” said Assistant Commissioner of Inmate Services Dr. Buster Evans. “The vocational certification the offenders will receive, will ensure that they will not come back to prison once released.”
The GDC has one of the largest prison systems in the U.S. and is responsible for supervising nearly 52,000 state prisoners. It is the largest law enforcement agency in the state with approximately 10,500 employees.
For more information on the GDC call 478-992-5248 or visit http://www.gdc.ga.gov