Testimonial: HMP Rye Hill ‘Beehive Project’

The Beehive Project social enterprise has grown out of the work of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation team (DART) based at HMP Rye Hill with the primary objective to manufacture natural beehives (otherwise known as ‘Sun Hives’).

The business has several social purposes:

  • Engagement of prisoners in meaningful activity as part of their rehabilitation.  Although the enterprise will trade and generate a surplus, it is not intended to become an industry within the prison.  It will always be part of an overall support activity for in-mates.
  • Production of an environmentally-friendly product specifically for the preservation of honey bees.
  • Accumulating an economic surplus to support prisoners on their release.  This will be channelled through the various prisoner resettlement organisations, most of which are charities or social enterprises.

Working with Paul Smith, an Inspire2Enterprise (I2E) Business Adviser, the business case for the project was developed and, as a result, an independent community interest company (CIC) was set up at the end of 2016 to market the primary product, the Sun Hive.

It is planned for the enterprise to be self-funding by the end of 2017 and to also be financially independent of the prison administration.

Operating an enterprise in a prison environment presents a range of practical problems not normally experienced by other businesses.  Although some 20 prisoners have been trained since the project started, several of these have since been moved to other establishments as part of their custody programme and so maintaining the necessary expertise to produce the Sun Hive (a hand-made product) is an on-going challenge.  Similarly, moving raw materials into the prison and finished goods out requires additional attention to security arrangements.

The enterprise continues to benefit from on-going support from its three partners: G4S (prison management), Garden Organic (charity) and the Natural Beekeeping Trust (charity) with external support from Public Health England and Inspire2Enterprise.

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