Bees take sting out of serving time for Auckland female prisoners

By Mānia Clarke

Creating better outcomes for women in prison is what the Howard League volunteers have aimed for. Their latest project for inmates is doing time to learn about beekeeping. 

The sweetness of the honey has taken the sting out of serving time these five women.

They admit the Level 3 Apiculture certificate beekeeping programme isn't easy, but there's plenty of support from fellow prison mentors.

“I'm dyslexic, so luckily I had a mentor from the previous year 2016 to help me with that,” said one fellow-prison mentor. “And I managed to pass. I wanted to offer something positive because of my own learning difficulties.

Residential Manager of Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility’s Low Security says, “The wāhine in here need more opportunities, to have skills so that they can get the skills and upgrade themselves before they walk out of the prison, that will really help them with their whānau.”

The 37-week beekeeping operation started over two years ago through volunteers of the Howard League. Each woman is sponsored by the league who cover the $400-course fees.

“We get them in a position where they will be useful for their first-time job of beekeeping,” said course tutor, Brian Alexander, “they'll have a lot of skills and a lot of knowledge.”

Around 12 ladies have completed the course and for some, it has provided a career pathway since their release.

“One lady in particular and she's got a fulltime beekeeping job, and it's a family firm, and she got early parole and one of the reasons was, was that she could go straight into a beekeeping job,” said Alexander. 

Other graduates plan to become hobbyist sharing their newfound knowledge and honey with family and friends.

Honey is banned from prisons around the country because some may use it to make alcohol. However, these women are able to eat the honey themselves as well as gifting it to organisations that help those in need.