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Oct 23, 2018

At-Risk Youths Visit Prison

Forty-eight at-risk youths who are enrolled at the Frank Lizama Training Centre were today taken to the Belize Central Prison for a unique visit. They were taken there for a reality check on life behind bars.  After hearing an address from an inmate, some of the youths told News Five’s Hipolito Novelo that they’ll keep on the right path and out of jail. Here’s that story.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Have you ever thought what life behind bars is like? What it would be like to be among convicts and the accused?  Forty-eight at risk youths of the Frank Lizama Training Center got a brief glimpse today on what life would be if they are ever incarcerated. Commander of Eastern Division Region One Senior Superintendent of Police, Howell Gillett, partnered with the staff at the Frank Lizama Training Center with the goal to dissuade at risk youths from committing crime, joining the gangs and becoming involved in other nefarious activities.

 

Howell Gillett

Sr. Supt. Howell Gillett, Commander, Eastern Division Region One

These are kids that did not finish primary school and they are being given a second chance at Frank Lizama to learn a skill. These kids are at risk young people who have been given a second chance at education but they come from troubled neighbor and we thought it right to collaborate with the staff at that school and  to bring them to see firsthand what happens when you make bad decisions in life.”

 

At the Belize Central Prison, there is the Wagner’s Youth Facility which houses minors who have been convicted or accused of committing crime. Today, the students were placed face to face with the minors of the Wagner’s Youth Facility and given one key message:

 

William Dawson

William Dawson, Director, Wagner’s Youth Facility

The key message is to keep hope alive and be inspired, be motivated, have a high self esteem. Believe in yourself. Hang around positive people and absorb positive energy. If you do not absorb positive energy you will be engaged in negativity. So we just want to keep them engaged and choose their friends wisely and make positive decisions in their lives.

 

The students heard testimonies from inmates who have experienced horrible ordeals over the years they have been behind bars. After hearing from some of the inmates, the students realized that life behind bars it not something they would want.

 

Jair McKenzie

Jair McKenzie, Student, Frank Lizama Training Center
“It makes me feel bad because I do not want to come back here. So that is why I want to stay out there and have a better life.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“How do you plan to keep away from gangs and drugs?”

 

Jair McKenzie

Go to Church and continue school.”

 

Kadajah Young

Kadajah Young, Student, Frank Lizama Training Center 

“Sir I think it is not easy out here. I think it is hard. I could not make it one day here. Think before you do things and not let your friends lead you into the wrong path and make your mother proud.”

 

Andrew Holder

Andrew Holder, Student, Frank Lizama Training Center 

“I would never say that I would end up with somebody in the carrot suit or something like that but you have to keep the mind open and keep it set to what you want and what you need in life. I think it is very beneficial because it give you a lot of knowledge and experience to what they do back here, what all they do so you have to stay on the right path.”

 

The challenge now would be keeping on that right path. For many at risk youths, the influences of gangs, poverty and several social issues can be difficult to fight off but according to Gillett, some have successfully been managing to do so.

 

Sr. Supt. Howell Gillett

“The kids who we have interacted with over the past seven months one of them have been involved in any flagrant and egregious breach of the laws of Belize so that tells you a story that what we are doing is working.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Sir what would you say to someone who would say to someone who would say that this is just a scare tactic because when these children experience new things as the years go by, there are several factors in society; social issues, gang  members, gang leaders, drugs, that would force them to into the gang life?”

 

Sr. Supt. Howell Gillett

“Sometimes the circumstances that you go through, the environment that you live in would lend towards what you just mentioned. But I will tell you that bringing the kids here have ripple effects because they will go back to tell their friends what they have encounter and share with them as to the good and the bad.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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