Travis County Inmates Become Beekeepers - New York News

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Travis County Inmates Become Beekeepers

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Del Valle, TX (KTBC)-Behind the barbed wire at the Travis County Correctional Complex there are ten bee hives. For the last six weeks a small group of inmates have tended to the hives and cared for the bees learning all about them.

That hard work paid off on Friday when the group walked across the stage at the jail earning their master beekeeping certifications.

For two of the men a cap and gown covered their black and white stripe uniforms. The other man graduating was recently released from jail but made the trip back for the ceremony.

"You should be very proud of your accomplishments," said Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton during the ceremony. Hamilton says often times people see law enforcement as doing nothing more than locking people up and throwing away the key. The sheriff says it's important to provide programs that can give inmates another chance.

About a year and a half ago Walter Schumacher called Hamilton. Schumacher started Central Texas Bee Rescue and founded the American Honey Bee Protection Agency. The two worked out the details to bring the program to the jail helping inmates earn a certificate and the opportunity for a job.

"We created a program and worked with Prairie View A&M to make this course so ti was an actual course that could be accredited," said Schumacher. "It's the first of its kind in the country as far as we know of," he said.

"I tell our officers on a regular basis that just because people are here doesn't make them bad people. They made a bad choice," explained Hamilton.

As Randy Baldazo walked up to the stage his teacher explained how proud she was. Proud is word he never expected to hear in jail. At 39 he's wearing a cap and gown for the first time.

"It's a big thing for me to graduate. I didn't graduate high school so this is redemption," said Baldazo. After four months in jail he was released last week. Baldazo took his final ten page test outside of jail and walked back in for graduation.

"With this it's a new start to work my butt off and change a little bit so I don't have to come back to this place," said Baldazo.

The certificate is more than a piece of paper for Avery Martin, 21. He calls it hope. "With this I feel like it's not going to take a lot of time to get back up on my feet," said Martin.

"I think it's so big of those individuals who don't just come here to lay down. They try to make themselves a better person," said the sheriff.

The non-profit has jobs waiting for these men. Both Baldazo and Martin plan to take Schumacher up on his offer for a job. While they plan to save bees, the bees may very well be doing the same for their new keepers.

A second bee keeping class starts next week with eight women. The non-profit is expanding into Houston and Harris County is considering a similar program.

This is one of many programs Travis County offers to help inmates adjust after they've served their time.

 

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