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Prison gateway, Belize City 1975
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Prison gateway, Belize City 1975

George Villanueva:

Her Majesty’s Prison, we all remember it so well, here is the Bell Tower. It will later become the Belize Museum, can you smell the bread yet. Photo taken 1975. Was also used in the movie "The Dogs of War."

Reflections on Her Majesty's Prison in Belize

by Bilal Morris

Now Belize's museum in the heart of the old capital of Belize City, this historic Belizean landmark underscores the harshness of colonial Britain in the former British colony called British Honduras.

There are many fables and narratives that tells the history of this serious deterrent to crime in the British colony, and many Belizeans are still telling them. It is where the Belizean symbol of feminist resistance, Nora Parram, was jailed and then hanged for a crime that factual evidence in Belize are now alluding to that she did not commit.

It is the place that housed two of Belize's most notorious criminals called "Rodney" and "Crawford". And it's the place where many Belizean women of old said sold the best bread called "Jailbread". The Belize Prison of the 1950's, 60's and 70's, is like a ghost that carries many tales of the ancient with it.

Just glancing at its new polished structure last month while in Belize made yours truly reflected on the many stories told by my parents and other Belizean "old people" about its past. But the one that was most eerie is the narrative of the hanging of Nora Parram.

"Deh sey dey will neva hang anada woman!" says my mother at 92 years old who is always repeating the story over and over again as she aged.

Perhaps the present generation of criminals in Belize that are housed at the new facility in Hattieville to the west of Belize City would have suffered a different fate if their crimes were being committed during the old colonial days under the British Union Jack.

And when the sun finally sat on this very brutal colonial power and one which stamped out mutiny, rebellion, and crime against the Crown with some of the most heinous brutality like hanging, the iron fist that was once a super power began dismissing hanging in Belize through its passive privy council in London.

But has the Caribbean Court of Justice (C.C.J.) done any better since Belize has become a part of that integrated judiciary system of justice? It does not appear so as Belize's criminal justice system through its judiciary has become one of the most compromised in the Caribbean today as the revolving door process continues to turn some of Belize's most promising young men into notorious criminals.

And as old time Belizeans would say in these times and in celebration of their love for the British monarch and the strict colonial days of British Honduras, "Gimme di shilling wid di lion pan it!"

Photograph by Infrogmation of New Orleans              

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