UB discusses solutions to crime and violence in Belize Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 28 March 2018 00:00

Belize’s top minds met within the Jaguar Auditorium at the University of Belize’s main campus in Belmopan on Tuesday evening to issue a series of policy recommendations to address the recent spate of crimes. For the education sector, among these recommendations were that primary and secondary education should be free of cost to all our children. Another recommendation was for there to be a country-wide assessment of specialized courses and disciplines to fulfill the needs for clinical psychologists and other specialties. Also that the authorities provide scholarships for allied health and social services.

Another group also gave recommendations that members of the police receive psycho-social support as they have also been affected by trauma. Experts also advised that there be more transparency in the selection process of police officers. Another recommendation was that the professional standards branch take preventative measures on crime.

Such brainstorming is the result of a second day in trying to understand masculinities and male violence in Belize. A joint release from the University of Belize, USAID, UNDP and the INFOSEGURA Project states that the seminar seeks to understand the contemporary work taking place in Belize to tackle violence using a masculinities perspective.

In his opening remarks at the George Price Center for Peace and Development on Monday Professor Clement Sankat, President of the University of Belize mentioned the importance of the University of Belize in the debate. He also focused on research in setting out national policy decisions.

A select panel also provided on Tuesday valuable information regarding their services. For example, Anthony Castillo from the Belize Youth Challenge said that the program now running at mile 21 on the George Price Highway was for the 15 to 17 age group, who were at risk and was aimed at reclaiming them. Another program headed by Germaine Crawford from the Gateway Youth Centre Southside was also to develop the physical and cognitive activities of participants.

Activist Nuri Mohammed, with 35 years of community service added to his title, also joined in saying that interventions cannot be simply as a result of a crisis. He said that the way forward has to be comprehensive with everyone sitting around the table and should be led by youths.

Chief Executive Officer Virgilio Murillo was also present to represent the Kolbe Foundation where he provided a status report. He reported that 61% of the 432 prisoners awaiting trial was for murder. Murillo also estimates that 50% of the prison population was 18 to 30 years old. Interestingly, there are now 138 gang members at the Kolbe facility as a result of the recent spate of killings from a former 129. Admittedly, Kolbe has received much public attention for having introduced innovative educational programs for its prison population as Murillo takes the stance that “…prisoners don’t go to prison to punish, they go there as punishment.”

Adding to the mix on Tuesday was Chery-Lynn Vidal, the Director of Public Prosecutions who reported that witness protection now existed in some Caribbean islands, where vulnerable witnesses were being moved to other islands. However; in Belize it was more difficult as some witnesses have decided not to assist in the prosecution and have instead opted to “…have a less stressful place.” Vidal said that her office has tried informally to offer protection with the help from the business community.

But not a pin drop could be heard this morning during the presentation by Clinical Psychologist Lynmara Rosado, a professor from the University of Belize. Rosado examined violence and aggression from a developmental perspective.

According to Rosado, babies form a relationship with their caregivers during the first year of life and if such support is lacking during that critical stage they will adapt. If a child grows up in a hostile environment such as where mom and dad fights, the effects can be long lasting. If a mother expresses anger through physical violence against her child, that child will develop a hostile view of the world. From a biological point of view, a child exposed to constant trauma events will soon develop brain changes as his or her neuronal pathways are negatively affected. During such fight and flight mode a set of neurotransmitters are also released within the brain, which should never have been there repeatedly and for extended periods of time.  Later in life says Lynmara Rosado that child will become a bully at school, be irritable and disregard the safety of others.