The Belize Central Prison currently boasts a significantly smaller population that it did only eight years ago.  The facility, which is managed by the Kolbe Foundation, houses adult men and women and male youths.  But while the general population in Belize has been growing, what has caused the prison population to shrink over the years?  News Five’s Marion Ali found out that there may be more than one reason for this decline.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The population at the Belize Central Prison up to December thirty-first, 2021 stood at a thousand and twenty-five. Of that amount, six hundred and eighty were convicted inmates, while three hundred and fifty-five were on remand awaiting trial. Fourteen were women, twenty-four juvenile offenders are housed at the Wagner’s Youth Facility, and the remaining nine hundred and eighty-seven are adult men.

But while this number might sound like a lot, it’s about six hundred fewer than what the average population was eight years ago, when it stood at one thousand six hundred and twenty-three. Virgilio Murillo, the C.E.O. of the Kolbe Foundation which manages the facility, told News Five today that he feels that this significant reduction is due to the rehabilitation program they have in place.

Virgilio Murillo, C.E.O., Kolbe Foundation

“Whether it’s you know, giving treatment for drug addiction, or any form of addiction. We have a program to try and address their gang affiliation, gang involvement and all those types of stuff, so I think the rehab efforts have a lot to do with it. Secondly, I will maintain that not making the prison a five-star hotel for these guys certainly is having its deterrent effect on them because they’re leaving and they don’t want to come back.”

Another factor that Murillo says could be responsible for the prison not seeing many repeat offenders behind bars is that several of the alleged gang affiliates were killed after they were released back into the community.

But while the prison’s population is significantly lower now, it might very well increase when the Supreme Court criminal calendar opens less than two weeks from now and more people are tried and sentenced or remanded to await their trial. But Murillo say overcrowding will not be an issue that they will have to contend with, not even in these COVID times.

Virgilio Murillo

“The capacity at the facility currently stands at two thousand, one hundred. We are, I think, less than fifty percent of our capacity.   We’re enforcing all our COVID-19 regulations both with our staff and with the inmates and visitors that come to the prison.   The prison has, as a part of its COVID-19 protocols, the isolation or the quarantining of these guys on admission for that ten-day period. Once they have not displayed any symptoms or once they – well I would say display any symptoms of COVID – then they’re removed after that ten-day period has passed.”

Murillo says the consequence on campus for guards who are caught not properly wearing their masks is a three-day suspension on half pay and that rule has been effective among the people who interact with the inmates daily. Murillo said that prison authorities have also been successful at confiscating illegal drugs, weapons and contraband goods before they can be used, through random searches carried out in the cells. Reporting for News Five, I am Marion Ali.

The last time a prisoner was killed at the Belize Central Prison by a fellow inmate with a hand-made weapon was December of 2009.

Channel 5