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Aug 11, 2017

Prison Population is Varied; No Gangs Allowed

Earlier this week, we joined youths from Belmopan on a tour of the Hattieville prison. The initiative was intended to discourage and deter young people from engaging in criminal activity. The statistics show that the prison population is made up mostly by Hispanics incarcerated for immigration offenses; in second place are crimes of dishonesty while the number of alleged murderers is slightly up. But over at the Wagner’s Facility, prison authorities are having a challenge since young offenders are found to be most enterprising.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The Central Prison in Hattieville, off the George Price Highway is currently home to one thousand three hundred inmates; four hundred and fifty-two of them are awaiting trial with fifty-eight percent of the latter figure on remand for murder. It is a staggering reality for the Belizean and foreign nationals at the prison which the Kolbe Foundation has been managing since 2002.  Discipline and order are life skills being taught behind prison walls; gangs are not allowed.

 

Virgilio Murill

Virgilio Murillo, C.E.O. Kolbe Foundation

“If you are not disciplined, then we are going to discipline you; if you don’t keep order, then we are going to put you in order. It is as simple as that. Assaults….inmates fight from time to time because they are tense. Some of them are not sure what is going to be the outcome of their cases so you understand that coming to prison is already the punishment. Coming to prison they are already afflicted, they are already hurting over that.  Most of the assaults happen at tango five for this period because we have members of the MS Thirteen and members of the Eighteen Street, who were at war. In the prison we do not allow you to practice your gang rituals or your gangster-ism. It doesn’t work in a prison. We’re going to discipline you if you get involved or if you are involved in gang activities.  As far as I am concerned, when you come to prison all of you are one. All of you are one. I have no MS Thirteen here, no Eighteen Street, no George Street, no S.S.G. You are prisoners, not gang members.”

 

The statistics show that for 2017, most inmates are behind bars for immigration offenses; followed closely behind by crimes of dishonesty.

 

Virgilio Murillo

“Majority for this period has to do with immigration offenses, those Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans who keep coming here for illegal entry, entering Belize without documentation. The next big chunk, if you look at the chart has to do with crimes of dishonesty and violent offenses. Crimes of dishonesty are things like robbery, burglary, theft and violent crimes are things like maim and assaults these kinds of things. This chart compares imprisonment by offense with last year and if you notice we saw a little drop with crimes of dishonesty, Immigration offenses went high nineteen percent increase.”

 

When it comes to murder, this year, thirty-four persons are on remand, which is two more than last year. While violent crimes also went up, the number of inmates for alleged murder attempts and arsons decreased. Belize City continues to account for most of inmates.

 

Virgilio Murillo

“Of course Belize City is the most populated of most districts so that is expected. And if you look at San Ignacio and Belmopan, they seem to be doing a number too. When you compare the district last year with this year same period; you would see that Belmopan had a slight reduction, Belize City had a little reduction—nothing much to talk about. Corozal…but if you look at Independence, it shot through the roof along with San Pedro.”

 

The Wagner’s Youth Facility is the area that houses the young offenders; inmates under eighteen years of age. That is among one of the areas that is difficult to manage. Murillo says that the prisoners are crafty in using toothbrushes, padlocks and even paper as weapons.

 

Virgilio Murillo

“There is where we have the bulk of our problem. The next area we have problem is tango eight two; and that is the building that houses the rival gangs. So that explains why they would want to have weapons because they are not so certain; they don’t trust each other. But we still have that under control because for you to find six weapons within a period of six months; that is amazing. If you look at 2016, we found a hundred and fifteen weapons in 2016. To date, we have found only thirty-five. If the year ends out like this, we are looking at seventy.”

 

Based on ethnicity, mostly Creoles and Hispanics are in detention with over three hundred persons each; Mestizoes are at one hundred and nine and Garifuna fifty-four; other cultures, including Maya, East Indian and Ketchi account for only eight percent of the prison population. Duane Moody for News Five.

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