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May 31, 2018

Behind Prison Walls, Preparation for New Businesses

Fifteen inmates have completed a five week business development course at the Belize Central Prison. They are preparing for life after lock-up.  The prison, through the Kolbe Foundation, carries out a number of programmes to equip prisoners for life outside its walls. It is not often that the foundation gets a lot of outside help, but the Small Business Development Center of the BELTRAIDE has stepped up with a free course to help make inmates employable once they leave the prison.  Today, those inmates received their certificates of completion after learning the fundamentals of what it takes to establish a business. The inmates say they are ready and are looking forward to life outside of the prison where they will put their skills to use. News Five’s Andrea Polanco shares more about how the Kolbe Foundation and partners are helping these inmates to turn their life around.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Rosalilia ‘Lilly’ Castillo is a model inmate at the Belize Central Prison. She is a dedicated yogi. This forty-eight-year-old who is serving time for manslaughter participates in just about everything to help her develop and prepare for life outside the prison walls. And to support that transition for life outside prison, she and fourteen other inmates took a business development course. For Lilly, it is about more than being self-sufficient; it is a shot at rebuilding herself once she completes her more than ten year sentence.

 

Rosalilia Castillo

Rosalilia Castillo, Inmate

“It teach me about how to market my product, pricing, and also it gives me a wider feel of how to present my product, how to serve my customers and also it helps me to be a better person; more prepared in skills and to return to society to serve my community.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How do you feel about doing this kind of course here in the prison? Is this something you thought you would be doing while in prison?”

 

Rosalilia Castillo

“No. I never thought before that I would be going to do it.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“When you leave the prison, what kind of business do you want to do?”

 

Rosalilia Castillo

“With the grace of God and my plans, I want to open my small business again. A tortilla factory –r eturn and do corn tortilla, flour tortilla, chips and so forth. And just serve the society with good products and good price.”

 

Today the inmates received their certificates from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC); a unit of BELTRAIDE. They completed five weeks of intensive training in business development education to learn the basics of creating a small business. Business Advisor Sarita Bejerano explains how this program can give these inmates the start they need once they leave prison.

 

Sarita Bejerano

Sarita Bejerano, Business Advisor, SBDC BELTRAIDE

“One of the workshops were to develop a business model which is something that is a requirement especially if you are seeking financing from a financial institution out there. A business model is important for them to know if they want to get investors or if they want to start. So, it is like a map of the entire business. Leaving the prison, they will definitely be better skilled, better prepared to develop that business model and put everything else into practice. Along with that came the marketing skills, the customer service, as well as identifying themselves as entrepreneurs; are they risk takers, are they proactive? So, all of these elements the program entailed to better prepare them to be out there. Of course, they will also need to be practicing what they learned to be fully engaged out there.”

 

Forty-year-old Eric Hines, a father of four, is another one of the inmates who wants to use these new skills and the knowledge to turn his life around. His plan is to get into the agriculture business; grow vegetables and fruits to sell. He has almost completed his seven-year sentence and he says this program will help him to stay out of prison.

 

Eric Hines

Eric Hines, Inmate

“I like the program because it teaches me to not come back at this prison. I learn lot from this program; a lot, lot, lot, so to not give problem outta road. So, this program teach me to not get into any trouble; this wah mek I mek wah business. I wah just deal with my business right.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, you think that having learned these skills, it will also help you to change your life; turn things around?”

 

Eric Hines

“Yes. Yes. It will make me change my life. I won’t be a bad person again. It changed me a lot. It will not let me be back yah again. It changed me a lot so that I nuh come back yah dah jail no more.”

 

And it is about making this vulnerable and often scorned population employable. It is to help them become productive and contributing members of society once they re-integrate. Minister Tracey Panton is pleased that her ministry can support an initiative like this.

 

Tracey Panton

Tracey Panton, Minister of State, Trade & Investment

“I think it is absolutely important. I think that having a productive citizenry is important for the development of Belize, the economic well being of Belize.  It is also important to the well-being to the recipients and their families. It is important that when they leave from this facility they are not defined by what has happened before but they are equipped to live more productive lives moving forward.”

 

Moving forward after being incarcerated is difficult for most. And that is why Adrian Morris, who was locked up at just fifteen-years-old, wants to prepare himself for life on the outside by starting his own business. He was sentenced to fifteen years for taking a life – but by the time he gets out he would have spent almost eighteen years behind bars.

 

Adrian Morris

Adrian Morris, Inmate

“When I first came here, I neva expect fi be like this. But thank God, it happened how it happened and I am just trying to deal with it the best way I could and try learn all I could learn and I could help people.”

 

At the end of the day – the prison serves as more than just a lock-up facility for criminals. Kolbe Foundation is actively pursuing the rehabilitation of these inmates. And a part of that is to equip them with skills and knowledge to survive outside these prison walls – but it is also to help them not to come back here.

 

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

“I see a high level of commitment on their part, no doubt about it. I think they are very excited about themselves. I think they feel very, very accomplished, no doubt. I expect that they are gonna put it to good use. I think this is one particular instance where they see hope on the horizon to be a better person.   Definitely, I can tell you with certainty that these guys, I don’t expect any of them returning to this prison. This is a big help for them and this is surely a proper way of ensuring that they do not come back to prison once they have left.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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