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How honeybees are keeping men out of prison

Only four percent of the former inmates raising bees at sweet beginnings return to prison. (AP Photo)

Last week we heard that the United States prison population is now so large, and the cost so high, that the attorney general was pretty much forced to announce that prosecutors would no longer prosecute non-violent drug offenders under any law with a mandatory sentence.

That policy change comes too late for Amir Futrell.

“What did you do to get in trouble?” asks Correspondent Don Dahler.

“Cocaine,” says Futrell.

“You got busted for selling?” Dahler asks again.

“Yes, sir,” says Futrell.

“What kind of time did you do?” asks Dahler.

“Six years,” Futrell responds.

Six years in prison usually means your job prospects are pretty bleak. Amir Futrell’s seem pretty good. Dahler found him tending honeybees.

“I didn’t want to revert to what brought me into the penitentiary, so I was looking for a new way. You have to try something different – and this was it,” says Futrell.

It’s a program in Chicago called Sweet Beginnings, created by Brenda Palms Barber. Barber hires former inmates and turns them into beekeepers.

“These are people who had served time for crimes, but could not get back into the labor market because of their backgrounds,” says Barber.

You wouldn’t think it, but it turns out Chicago is a great place for honeybees.

“There are lots of weeds on the West side, and there are weeds that produce nectar. And in fact, they produce some beautiful delicious honey, as well,” Barber adds.

Dahler thinks there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

But more than a metaphor, there are also results. Only 4 percent of the former inmates raising bees at Sweet Beginnings return to prison.

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