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Jul 27, 2016

Female Population at Kolbe Gets New Classroom

It’s not often that News Five is invited within the compound of the Belize Central Prison, currently home to about one thousand four hundred and twenty inmates. But today we were, and it was for a good and positive reason. The female population of the facility has been gifted with a new all-purpose classroom building, courtesy of the British Government and the Word at Work Ministry. As you’ll see in this story, the value of the building lies not so much in its physical structure as in the opportunities that it will offer these women. News Five’s Mike Rudon went to prison, fortunately as a very temporary guest, and has the story.


{Opening of the National Anthem…}


Mike Rudon, Reporting

These women will be the direct beneficiaries of all the life-changing opportunities and programs that will be offered within the walls of this brand new building. It was built by inmates at the prison and there are big plans for it.


Virgilio Murillo

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

“For quite some time we’ve been struggling, trying to get a facility where we can train the female inmates, skills, arts, crafts, anything that would allow them to survive on the outside once they return to their communities. We managed to collaborate with the British Government and they were very kind to have donated over eighty thousand dollars toward the building of this building. Along with them we had Word at Work that donated also and then the Kolbe Foundation injected their own amount with respect to labour and other materials because we definitely wanted it to be a worthwhile investment.”


Seated as the special guests in a ceremony prepared for them, these women could have been part of an audience in any forum for any occasion. By a twist of fate they have been incarcerated for a time, but the message today by word and by the gift of this building is that they have not been forgotten.


Francis Woods

Francis Woods, Executive Member, Kolbe Foundation

“You all are here not because of your own fault. Things happened in your lives before you got to this side that caused you to make some bad decisions. This is a start. Every day is a new start. This building will serve as a super tool to get you ahead and get that new start going.”


Peter Hughes

Peter Hughes, British High Commissioner

“One of the most important thing that can be provided to prisoners in all countries of the world is to make sure that they get the skills they need to make them employable and positive contributors to society once they return. These classrooms are specifically intended to provide the female prisoners of the Belize Central Prison with a much needed place to learn these skills. When we approached the Kolbe Foundation to ask how we could assist their efforts here they very quickly let us know this is what they need. So this is what we have done our absolute best to provide.”


Prisons are prisons are prisons all over the world, but the Kolbe Foundation has taken a different approach where incarceration is concerned.


Virgilio Murillo

“If there’s one prison that focuses very hard on the reform of inmates, getting them to get their lives back together and go back into society and be what you call law-abiding citizens and of course be able to live a self-sustainable life that is Kolbe Foundation. We believe that once you change people’s attitudes, once you change their mindset, they should be able to go back out there and be successful. Certainly we believe also that people make mistakes. We also understand that they deserve a second chance and because of that belief we focus very hard on trying to give back these people their lives. I want to say also too that incarceration no doubt destroys people’s lives. We could go into the details but I don’t want to do that at this point in time. I will just say that it definitely destroys people’s lives. Nothing is the same once you have left prison.”


Currently the thirty-seven female inmates participate in spiritual or vocational programs, including sewing and arts and crafts. But looking at the small building and compound where they are housed, the need for this new building is readily evident.


Virgilio Murillo

“The female section is pretty quiet. We have only roughly thirty-seven inmates right now, female inmates, and for that little number of people they tend to get along very well, so we don’t have many problems with them. Very few and far between we have them trying to smuggle contraband into the prison or getting into an altercation, but very minimal. I think if I remember the record very well, I think I saw maybe one of two incidents since the year began in respect of the female inmates.”


The building will also be used for family days, considered an integral part of the rehabilitation process and conducted four times for the year. Mike Rudon for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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