A special report released by CBS News may have been just the solution the United States needs to get convicted felons a shot towards getting back to the work force. Many people who have been convicted of felonies won’t even get a second look when after they apply for a job after a hiring manager does a background check and sees that the applicant has served time or has a previous record. But Brenda Palms Barber of Chicago may have laid the blueprint towards getting people who served prison time another shot at getting back into the America’s workforce. She hires former inmates and turns them into beekeepers; a person who keeps bees and uses them towards commodities, like jarring honey, making beeswax or royal jelly.
In 2005, Palms Barber spearheaded a company called ‘Sweet Beginnings,’ which began with $140,000 in seed money from the Illinois Department of Corrections. It now sells honey and skincare products under the name of ‘Bee Love’ in supermarkets, hotels and airports. And the company expects sales of $300,000 this year.
"These are people who had served time for crimes but could not get back into the labor market because of their backgrounds," Palms Barer said. “The program only gives the former inmates a push to get their life on track.”
Amir Futrell is an former inmate whom Palms Barber gave an opportunity to, and it’s seemingly an opportunity that he’s thankful for. Futrell served six years for selling cocaine
and when he was released, he had to support two kids without any job prospects. "I didn't want to revert to what brought me into the penitentiary, so I was looking for a new way," he said. "You have to try something different and this was it."
About 40 percent of all inmates return to prison, but under Palm Barber’s employment opportunity, only 4 percent of her workers do.
"These are people who had served time for crimes but could not get back into the labor market because of their backgrounds," Palm Barber said. "There are lots of weeds on the West Side and there are weeds that produce nectar; In fact they produce some beautiful delicious honey as well. It isn't about what we see as a flower or a weed; it's just drawing the good out of that plant source and transforming it into something that is sweet and good." And this transcending act may be just the thing that can transform felons in into productive American citizens.