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Video Link system set up at Kolbe Foundation Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00

Over USD $387,000 of equipment and infrastructure were handed over from the US Embassy to Belize’s judicial system, more specifically, the Kolbe Foundation/Belize Central Prison on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. At the Central Prison in Hattieville, now sits a Prison Courthouse as well as a Video Link System which is meant to modernize the operation of our current criminal justice system. The new facilities will provide video conferencing between select courts in Belize City and the Belize Central Prison and will also have space dedicated to attorney-client consultation. The ability to video conference will allow for safe and more expedient processing of routine matters before the courts involving the inmates.

Signing of an official certificate took place between Chief Justice Hon. Kenneth Benjamin, Charge d’Affaires a.i. Keith Gilges, and Chief Executive Officer at the Kolbe Foundation, Virgilio Murillo. In his address, CEO Murillo considered the event very “historic”, referencing the Foundation’s excitement about the benefits of the Video Link System. It will benefit the entirety of the criminal justice system, specifically the judiciary, police, prosecution, and prison, in tremendous ways. It will be as effective as it is efficient and will enhance security and safety by eliminating the need to transport inmates to and from the prison for hearings. When they are transported, multiple risks become likely including but not limited to traffic accidents, escapes, escorting officers being overpowered, and the like. The system will also eliminate the need for additional expenses including fuel, vehicle maintenance and repairs, and personnel demands. The CEO added that by eradicating the need to transport prisoners in and out of the prison, the system will also cause cases of contraband inside the prison to decline significantly. “It will certainly reduce contraband, particularly drugs, from entering the prison.”

The development of the infrastructure and equipment certainly marked a new milestone in Belize-US security cooperation, a partnership forged many years ago that seeks citizen security, justice, good governance and economic prosperity. With these in mind, according to Charge Gilges, four justice sector advisors were brought into Belize to assist  to improve the efficiency and ethics of our judicial system to meet regional and international standards. They have worked tirelessly over the course of their visit to offer technical advice and one of the results of their hard work has come to fruition. The Video Link System has been one of the first projects between the US Embassy and Belize’s judicial system. It offers direct communication between the prison and four courtrooms in Belize City and allows for more efficiency and highlights the right to attain counsel with the private room for attorneys and inmates to meet.

Chief Justice Hon. Kenneth Benjamin delivered the keynote address which highlighted the cooperation between the Government of Belize and that of the US since 2009. That established the intention to address citizen and border security and economic prosperity. This encompasses the criminal justice systems and its reforms. Since then, a number of initiatives have been successfully executed including criminal justice advisors who have been instrumental in achieving the Video Link System and the Prison Courthouse. In preparation for the development, inspections at both locations were conducted and have been successful. The facility, which was constructed by Kolbe personnel and inmates, is equipped with a backup generator as well as internet services involving the tower at the Queen Street Police Station and a tower at the Kolbe Foundation to allow for uninterrupted internet link between the courts and prison. CJ Benjamin did make mention that the Video Link System will only be utilized for hearings, not including trials and sentencings. “In the context of criminal justice reforms, it beholds me to point out that no criminal justice system can remain static,” he said.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 May 2019 11:24