Prisoners find that working with animals calms them down

  • by
Bee keeping at Warren Hill prison

I’m going to treat bees as animals in this article (actually they are animals in any case). That’s important because beehives have been installed at HMP Warren Hill in Suffolk. They have proved to be very popular with the inmates. There is a waiting list to join the beekeeping scheme. The hives are manufactured at the prison in the workshop. The prisoners do all the work themselves, take ownership of the task and learn about responsibility.

One prisoner said that it had improved self-esteem and given him an interest. Others have said that it is therapeutic working with bees. The men find that it is very calming and some said that it was “mind blowing”.

Prison management is preparing the prisoners for civvy street. Many of the prisoners are serving long sentences and coming to the end of their sentences. Three or four prisoners look after the bees at any one time and similar number shadow them so that when they leave they can be replaced.

Bee keeping at Warren Hill prison

Bee keeping at Warren Hill prison. Photo: IN PICTURES LTD/CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

The hives are inspected every week. There are plans to sell the honey to the public. The honey is very popular within the prison. Matt, who is serving a life sentence said:

I had the opportunity to do a short course in bee husbandry but it wasn’t until I started doing the weekly hive inspections and worked through a whole summer season up to the honey harvest that I started to understand the complex hierarchy and behaviours of a bee colony.

Comment: it is clear that this prisoner has benefited enormously and has a good attitude. It seems that beekeeping is a good means to transition from the institutionalised life of prison to the more demanding, in some respects, life outside.

There are a number of initiatives across the prison system in the UK in which prisoners work with animals and wildlife to calm them down, build self-esteem and help prepare them for outside life. For example, birds of prey have been introduced at Altcourse jail in Liverpool and there are hedgehog sanctuaries at Doncaster and hens at Leeds. It is fact that interacting with animals is therapeutic for everyone and especially for people with special needs. It is a wonderful way to employ animals. It is a symbiotic relationship (mutually beneficial).