A look inside Kolbe foundation as it transforms lives Print E-mail
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Thursday, 08 February 2018 00:00

The relative peace that now exists at the Belize Central Prison is as a result of a determined effort by its management to involve prisoners in a meaningful daily existence. They achieve this by allowing as many inmates as possible to engage in meaningful theoretical rehabilitation programs and useful vocational and occupational skills.

As part of that trend, thirty two persons recently graduated from a voluntary nine month program from the Remands Rehabilitation Center - Belize Central Prison.

The three phase course offered a series of theoretical trainings such as the healing of the mind, breaking the cycle of gang violence and re-integration.  The course attempts to break the cycle of gang violence by teaching and equipping inmates with viable skills.

A note from the Kolbe Website infers what it is like at the Belize Central Prison:

Punishment by incarceration deprives offenders of their most fundamental human right - freedom of movement and freedom of association. Incarceration also seeks to protect the community from these offenders, however, the majority of them come from a complex environment with grave problems such as drug addiction, unemployment and homelessness. As such then, the aim should be to improve the prospects for their lives upon release. It is our belief that appalling inhumane prison conditions, absence of rehabilitation or family/community reintegration programs, actually only gives inmates a better chance of improving their criminal skills.

Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Central Prison Virgilio Murillo stepped out confidently into the prison yards last week, to view and greet prisoners, who were engaged in making cement blocks, carving mahogany, raising chickens and pigs and a variety of other useful occupations. Murillo has been assisting the prison for the last 15 years and seems to know everyone working at the prison with great expertise.

Minutes before, Murillo had revealed some interesting facts about the prison to a group of children that were visiting. According to Murillo since 2011, escapes from the prison have been kept to an all-time low - especially in the last three years where the prison has had only one escape since. He attributes this to effective prison management and a totally engaged staff who do their jobs professionally; respecting the human rights of the inmates.

He also said that management has a very effective screening in place to prevent contraband such as marijuana from entering the prison. He bolstered this by reporting of a mother who had been convicted and sentenced to pay  10,000.00 or in default to spend three years in prison for trying to bring in marijuana for her son.

According to Murillo, as of the 31st of December, 158 persons have been on remand for more than two years of which 50 for more than five years. He also shared that of the total inmate population (1,202 prisoners), 308 (26%) were in for murder and 59 (5%) for manslaughter and this speaks volumes of the level of peace and calm within the prison.

CEO Murillo went on to say that 130 youths (under 18) were sent to prison last year by the Courts - including a 12 year old whom he forwarded to the Youth Hostel because he thought prison was not the appropriate place for him.

CEO Murillo also told the children that last year 1,888 persons were sent to prison either on remand or conviction and as of December 31, 2017 a total of 870 were on convicted status whilst 432 remained on remand.

Speaking of Gangs, the CEO showed a chart where 16 different gangs are in the Belize Central Prison. Murillo reveals that gang members have taken off with a new strategy of not showing off tattoos; since tattoos reveal their gang affiliation.

“The problem with gangs is that when you want to come out  you can’t,” warns Murillo.

The CEO commits himself to offering these kinds of talks to At Risk Youths in an effort to steer them away from a life of crime - especially as a strong deterrence from prison as imprisonment no doubt has a negative effect on the life of the inmate and loved-ones.