Brenda Palms Barber's honey-products program, Sweet Beginnings, has hired 275 recently released inmates since 2007, giving these men from one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago a second chance. These men, exiting the state prison system with little formal education or job skills, are being taught the art of beekeeping, how to take care of the bees and harvest the honey, and the business of selling the honey at farmers’ markets.
Ex-convicts working for this program receive a tremendous boost in self-esteem, some money in their pocketbooks, repaired credit ratings, an understanding of the rewards of hard work, and very importantly, a first job which makes moving on to future jobs so much easier. Sweet Beginnings has a prison recidivism rate among its employees of about 4 percent – far below the national and state averages of 65 percent and 55 percent respectively.
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