For the last six months, 12 guys have been busy as bees. Nine hives sit inside the barbed wire fence at Dooly State Prison.
Josh Layman’s first shot at parole is in 2019.
“I'm here for armed robbery and voluntary manslaughter," he said candidly. "In 2003, I was a different person then.”
Layman says he's changed a lot in over the last decade or so.
He came to Dooly from Smith Prison, which was the first to embrace bees.
“There were 200 that signed up for the class and only 12 or 13 get in,” Josh explained.
The state transferred Josh to help start the hives in Central Georgia.
They also partnered with the Heart of Georgia Beekeepers Association.
Rick Moore is the club’s president and says he’s never asked about the crimes the beekeepers committed to land in prison.
“I didn't want to know. It wasn't important in bee class,” he said.
This month, Josh and the other beekeepers hoisted in their first haul of honey.
“Out of these eight hives today, I'm expecting 150 pounds, which is close to fifteen gallons," Rick calculated. "They've all been stung once, but that's beekeeping.”
Dooly is a medium security site, which means some of these guys do have a violent past, but get them around gooey stuff that they helped create and they get downright bashful.
“It's a little unnerving because you don't want to mess it up,” Josh said sheepishly.
They're still learning the process, but after a year of experience around the flying insects, they'll get a certificate from the University of Georgia.
Which means the former prisoners will have a marketable skill on the outside.
“I live in North Georgia and I know a couple of people that have hives and I'd like to get into it," Josh said. "It helps create something to fall back onto instead of what we did before.”
And for no,w they're getting bragging rights. Two ounce jars will go to family members, complete with the Sweet Dooly Honey sticker on the jar.
“There's not many positive programs that we can see results in. This, we see the results of what we're doing and how it benefits everything," Josh said. "It gives us something positive to strive for.”
This process will happen numerous times, with each cycle giving the guys more confidence and benefits that could last a lifetime.
Four of the five prisons will stage a honey competition on October 7th in Milledgeville.
That's the fall conference of the Georgia Beekeepers Association.