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Jul 27, 2016

Prison Finances are Stretched Thin

Just one look at the Belize Central Prison would reveal that it is operating on a shoestring budget. The facilities are adequate, but not more than that. Before the construction of the new building, only possible through the largesse of generous and compassionate donors, the female population had little to write home about – just one cramped building housing thirty-seven of them. It’s the perpetual state of affairs at the prison, and C.E.O. Virgilio Murillo told us today that the need is very real.

 

Virgilio Murillo

Virgilio Murillo, C.E.O., Belize Central Prison

“When Kolbe took on the management of the prison, one of the things that used to happen back in the days is that I think prison was all about warehousing. We have taken on this approach where we want to rehabilitate. We want to get inmates to go back to their families, be productive, obey the law and stay out. But you know you cannot do that without rehabilitation programs, and whether the rehabilitation programs are theoretical or practical or vocational, any way you put it the bottom line is that they don’t come cheap, and we are always seeking funds, we are always seeking help from donors and other people who might want to make a difference in the life of somebody to finance these programs. We do get a management fee from the government of Belize which is roughly thirteen dollars a day per prisoner. From that we need to pay for guards – salaries on a whole and that includes guards and the rehabilitative staff, administrative staff and all of that. Salaries is one of our biggest expenses. Of course we need to feed these guys. The head count stands today at one thousand four hundred and twenty-five inmates and we have roughly two hundred and eighty staff. So it’s a huge operation and on thirteen dollars a day per prisoner, it certainly doesn’t stretch. There are times the head count falls really, really low and that hurts us more than anything else because we get by head. I remember a year or so ago we were hovering around one thousand five hundred and sixty-two. Today, we are at one thousand four hundred and twenty-five. We have seen a loss of almost one hundred and sixty-two inmates so far, and that’s no joke.”

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