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VIDEO: Leon Co. inmates harvest first honey from program designed to lower recidivism

The program started in 2023
Posted at 5:35 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 17:35:39-04
  • For the first time, Leon County inmates harvested honey from bees that are part of an initiative aimed at fostering vocational skills and reducing recidivism rates within our community.
  • It started in 2023. Leon County Sheriff's Office established the Ecology and Reentry Training Hub, also known as EARTH Haven.
  • Watch the video above to see the harvest and hear from one of the participants.


There's something new that can now both benefit inmates in the Leon County Detention Center and those living in the community. I'm Terry Gilliam your Southwest Tallahassee neighborhood reporter. I'm looking at how one new program continues to try and lower recidivism in Leon County.

"I had a lot of fun man, a lot of fun." Dontarius Gavin is currently incarcerated at the Leon County Detention facility, but he tells what's been keeping him up. "They teach me a lot about the bees, how to keep them, how to make honey, and talking to me about them."

The bees Gavin is talking about come from the Leon County Sheriff's Office First Honey Harvest event. Thursday was the inaugural harvest.

It started in 2023. Leon County Sheriff's Office established the Ecology and Reentry Training Hub, also known as EARTH Haven.


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

It's a training in beekeeping, gardening, and more. It's all designed to teach those currently incarcerated, skills when it's time to re-enter society. It's a program that works hand-in-hand with inmates and the community.

"It benefits the inmates, because now they get a job, a hobby, that they can go into. It teaches them about taking care of things, which is extremely important." Assistant Sheriff Steve Harrelson, who created the Leon County Sheriffs Office's EARTH Haven, also says, "Then when they graduate from the program, if they have suitable residence, they can actually take the beehive with them. It's benefiting the community, because now we are spreading these beehives all over the community, which benefits plants and farmland."

But benefiting both inmate skill set, and our ecosystem isn't the only goal the Leon County Sheriffs office is trying to reach. It's also trying to bring the recidivism rate down. I checked with the Office of the State Attorney Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida. It shows that the recidivism rate in Florida is about 25 percent within three years of a state prisoner's release.

"Anytime we can teach somebody a skill they can use and take back with them and put into practice, it always helps the effort to reduce recidivism." Brad Janowski is the Director of Re-Entry and Inmate Programs in Leon County. He was telling me how something different like beekeeping can be a helpful tool for re-entry programs.

I wanted to see how helpful it could be. I went to talk with Pastor Gregory James in Southwest Tallahassee, who also helps neighbors re-entering the community, to get his opinion. "Dealing with men and women who are re-entering society is a real challenge, and it's an opportunity for them to understand what it means care."

As for Gavin, he tells me his newfound care for bees will be good for him and his family "I have 5 kids. I think they'll like it. I know I like it so far. I'm having a lot of fun with them. I think they'll like to get in the bee suits and just spend time with daddy."

With this being the first honey harvest by the Leon County Sheriff's Office, deputies here tell me that they plan to continue to grow the program in the future.