Airway Heights Abuzz with Beekeeping

By Kay Heinrich, Associate Superintendent at Airway Heights Corrections Center

AIRWAY HEIGHTS — Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) has introduced honeybees to not only help the facility’s gardens but to sustain a healthy bee population for AHCC and the local community.

The four beehives will provide an educational opportunity in sustainability and help improve local community for AHCC. Photo by DOC Staff.

The four beehives will provide an educational opportunity in sustainability and help improve local community for AHCC. Photo by DOC Staff.

The four bee hives arrived this summer, courtesy of Jim Miller, a master beekeeper associated with the West Plains Beekeepers Association and members of AHCC sustainability committee. The bee hives are located near the facility gardens with access to a water source, and safely out of the way of normal foot traffic. Participation in the bee program is highly competitive and increases facility safety by serving an incentive for infraction-free behavior as part of the application and screening process.

Two incarcerated individuals begin their educational work with the honeybees. Photo by DOC Staff.

Two incarcerated individuals begin their educational work with the honeybees. Photo by DOC Staff.

The master beekeeper is facilitating a class for those interested in becoming certified bee apprentices. Completion of the course and passing of the Washington State Beekeepers Apprentice Certification will qualify a participant as an apprentice beekeeper. The goal is to include multiple groups in working together for safer communities through knowledge, education and collaboration.

Over the past year, the gardens, bees, vermiculture, recycling, and providing wood for local community members in need during the winter months has been engaging and a uniting effort for staff and inmates to work toward a sustainable environment and a way to give back to the community. The sustainability projects have earned enthusiasm from staff and provided hope and education for the incarcerated population.

Setting up the new beehives on arrival. Photo by DOC Staff.

Setting up the new beehives on arrival. Photo by DOC Staff.

The Washington State Department of Corrections has earned a national reputation for its efforts to make both its operations and facilities more sustainable while increasing facility safety. By being innovative and forming unique partnerships, such as the Sustainability in Prisons Project, facilities have been made safer through reduced infractions and the incarcerated population has been provided with new skill sets while being meaningfully engaged.

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