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Leon County Sheriff's Office launches inmate reentry program with beekeeping

Posted at 6:25 PM, Apr 18, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) — Leon County Sheriff's Office aims to give inmates a fresh start with a new, agriculturally focused reentry program starting with teaching beekeeping skills.

Inmate Dustin Nixon said this beekeeping training is something that will not only help him in the long-term, but also will also let him be a part of something bigger while serving time.

"It's bad enough, every minute behind them walls I'm missing with my family, you know, my wife and kids," Nixon said. "I just look at it as an opportunity to come out, help out, be a part of it."

He is a part of something that will make a buzz and help inmates like Nixon find work after release from prison.

The Earth Haven, short for Ecological and Reentry Training Hub, will be home to over 50,000 bees and training for inmates on professions like beekeeping.

A program that Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil said will benefit everyone.

"We believe this is one of those growing occupations that will have great benefits to not only to our inmates but again to our citizens in the surrounding area," Sheriff McNeil said. "Not to mention the fact that while we have these bees out here for the folks in Leon County, these bees are going to help pollinate all kind of crops across this community."

While pollination is an added benefit, the goal is to keep inmates in the community and out of jail upon release.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, 60% of state inmates are re-arrested within three years of their release.

But, Sergeant Daniel Whaley is hoping to teach inmates so they can make memories with family instead of falling back into crime.

"While you're here, your time away from your family, you're never going to get any of that back," Whaley said. "But, through the sheriff's vision and assistant sheriff Harrelson's vision of making this happen, when they get home, this is something they can do with their families."

Something that Nixon said he looks forward to doing when he finishes serving his time.

"Maybe be able to take it home, teach my daughter, and maybe pass it on to them and eventually make some money off of it," Nixon said. "Plus, my wife loves honey."

Nixon was one of three inmates to be the first to take part in this new program.

This is the first reentry program to launch since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sheriff Walt McNeil said the office will be unveiling more professional training programs at Earth Haven soon.