Head of European Union Mission Visits Central Prison Print E-mail
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Written by Shane d. Williams   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 00:00

John Woods addresses guests and inmates after screeningAmbassador Paola Amadei, Head of the European Union Delegation to Belize, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and the Cayman Islands, is in Belize on a five day mission to meet with government officials and representatives of civil society and the private sector to chart the way forward for partnership between Belize and the EU from 2014 to 2020. On Wednesday, November 6th, she took a break from technical consultations to promote one of the European Union’s main social policies, abolition of the death penalty.

Amadei invited the British High Commissioner to Belize, His Excellency Peter Hughes, the U.S. Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, Margaret Hawthorne, and other social partners on a visit to the Belize Central Prison where she said the Kolbe Foundation is “doing an excellent job” and “should be an example to other countries”. Kolbe Executives, Inmates and special invited guests gathered inside the prison’s chapel where Amadei hosted a screening of the award winning documentary “Songs of Redemption” produced by Fernando Garcia Guereta from Nice Time Productions Limited out of Jamaica.

Songs of Redemption presents the stories of several inmates of the General Penitentiary   in Kingston, Jamaica. The inmates were all convicted of varying degrees of violent crimes; including, gun possession, robbery, attempted murder and murder. While in one of the most dangerous prisons in the region, they took advantage of rehabilitation programs sponsored by the European Union and reformed their outlook on life. More specifically, they took advantage of the music program. The inmates in the documentary worked with a prison warden to create extremely powerful reggae songs. The warden produces the music and the inmates provide the lyrics. Their lyrics are based on their experiences in life both outside and inside of prison. The artists are very passionate about the lyrics they express. In the songs they express remorse for living the wrong lifestyle, making bad choices and not being able to take care of their family. They also warn others not to make poor choices that would lead to incarceration and a lifetime of seeking redemption.

The film shows how an effective rehabilitation program can transform an extremely violent prison into a place of hope and healing. Amadei says it is proof that “all human beings have the capacity to change and if given this opportunity the individual can positively contribute to his family, community and society at large.” She says people need to pay for what they have done but the goal should be to help them not to repeat their actions. The European Union has sponsored screenings of the documentary across the region and world in hopes that proponents of the death penalty reconsider their position. She says, “We have seen that the existence of the death penalty does not deter violent crime but instead it hardens those who commit such acts since they feel they have nothing more to lose.” She continues, “We salute the fact that there is a moratorium on such sentences in Belize, but it is important to continue a debate in society.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Kolbe Foundation, Earl Jones, says there is only one inmate in the prison that is currently on a death sentence. He says a barrister from the United Kingdom has taken up that individual’s case and has applied for that sentence to be changed. Jones says, “Hopefully by the end of this year that sentence will be changed and we will have no one on a death penalty.” John Woods, Co-Chairman of the Kolbe Foundation, says, “Here our goal is to create opportunities for inmates to equip themselves with skills that will allow them to enter back into society as a better person.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 November 2013 15:31