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Sep 29, 1998

Regional prison superintendents meet in Belize

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Over the next few days the Department of Corrections will be under the close scrutiny of prison authorities from across the region. Belize is host this year for the annual meeting of Superintendents of Prisons of British dependent territories. As News Five’s Patrick Jones reports, although Belize is not a dependent territory, it stands to gain a great deal from hosting the meeting.

The three-day conference gives participants a chance to exchange ideas on how to improve prison conditions in the region.

Almaida Wilson, Prison Superintendent, Turks & Caicos

“A conference like this does a lot for me because we get together and we find out what are the people’s experience and there are things that I can go back and use. There are things that they can use that I am doing, so it helps us a lot.”

Chris Gibbard, Coordinator, U.K. Oversees Prisons

“One of the great problems with running prisons in small Caribbean islands is there’s only ever one of them and if you get into trouble as a superintendent, if you have a concern about a particular issue, there’s no one to share that with within the community. So the object of this exercise is to introduce superintendents to fellow superintendents so they can get involved with some of the problems and come up with common solutions.”

At the opening of the three-day conference this morning, Superintendent of Prisons Bernard Adolphus gave an overview of prison conditions in Belize. After a field trip to the facilities at Hattieville and the Youth Enhancement Academy in Ladyville, the participants will, on Wednesday, get an opportunity to discuss what they perceive as weak and strong points in the Department of Corrections.

Bernard Adolphus, Prison Superintendent, Belize

“It’s not every day we go, we cannot travel to another man’s country everyday. But here is it, we have people from seven, eight different countries and they can share. And I am sure that at the end of the day, we will be talking the same language because we have the same problems: over crowded population, weakened security problems, financial problems and medical problems and these, educational problems. As I said before, that great statesman once said, “show me your jails and I will tell you what type country you have”. And it is a typical thing for all of us throughout the region and throughout the whole world.”

While the problems are common to each country’s prison system, Almaida Wilson of the Turks and Caicos Islands is hoping that her appointment as Superintendent of Prisons will lead the way for other women to follow in her footsteps.

Almaida Wilson

“I will hope so. The reason for me saying so is because people will have to see from my point of view as a female superintendent where the prison was, where it has become and if we can say that the prison has projected a good point of view from having a female in power or in charge. Other people will follow. I would not consider it being difficult. I would say that being a female superintendent is challenging because, having become the first female superintendent of Turks and Caicos Islands, people would wonder what can a woman do and I see it as being challenging because I think that I have made a real difference here and have brought the prison forward a long way from what it was.”

Prison Reform Coordinator Chris Gibbard says that since these yearly gatherings began, almost ten years ago, he has seen marked improvement in prison systems in the Caribbean.

Chris Gibbard

“Without question, a thousand percent improvement and I think the delegates at the end of the conference, if you talk to them would agree with that. Yes, I mean standards have been raised enormously and consistency certainly has been achieved.”

Patrick Jones for News Five.

The Caribbean Dependent Territories Prison Support conference ends on Thursday morning at the Fiesta Inn in Belize City.

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