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Oct 4, 2018

State of Emergency Lifted; Detained Inmates Share Their Stories Upon Release

Fifty-one inmates, all presumed to be members of the George Street and Ghost Town gangs, were discharged from the Belize Central Prison on Wednesday night and returned to Belize City.  Upon their arrival, they were escorted to the Queen Street Police Station where they reportedly met with Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams and Dianne Finnegan, who spoke with them prior to their release.  The men had been held in detention during the month of September for a period of thirty days while a state of emergency had been declared in those respective communities.  Tonight, we get a firsthand perspective from two individuals who maintain that their basic rights have been violated as a result of the public declaration.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The expiration of a thirty-day state of emergency brings with it the re-assimilation of fifty-one young men from two crime-ridden communities in Belize City.  Understanding that the month long detention is hardly enough time to meaningfully take stock of themselves, they were released from the Belize Central Prison on Wednesday night.  These individuals are reportedly from rival gangs in neighborhoods that were officially declared as places of potential unrest in early September.


Tyrone Meighan

Tyrone Meighan, Banak Street Resident

“We were at home occupying our time with our woman.  Everybody was at home at their house with their woman doing no gang activity or criminal activity so I noh undastand why dehn state dat da wah gang activity.  If yo deh with yo gial home, yo deh with yo ma, dehn come, hundred police, yo get di sense, brutalize people, di whap up people with no kinda communication, with no kinda talking, just beat up people.”


It’s a similar account given by Ian Claire who was taken from his home near Iguana Street in the early hours of September fourth.


Ian Claire

Ian Claire, Iguana Street Resident

“I heard the gunshot in the backyard and then I just jumped up.  I wanted to know what that was, so when I stepped out of my house I saw that the police trooper was at the front; however, I walked out, I wanted to know, at my gate, I didn’t reach out of my yard, you know.  So I walk out and I wahn know weh da di problem, so dehn just tell me, “come, let’s go, you gwein.”  So I da lik, “but gwein fi what, I mean I just wake up, unu sih cold eena my eye and everything, I noh know weh unu di talk bout.”  And I noh got no shirt on, I still eena sleeping pants and whatnot.  So dehn noh tell me nothing weh dehn di ker me fa or weh dehn di ker di group a people round di neighborhood fah.  Dehn just seh let’s go.  So I just gone wit di program, noh really know weh wahn be di outcome.”


Just like that, he too was corralled into a holding cell at the Queen Street Precinct where he was locked up with members of the George Street gang.  Claire refutes the notion that he is affiliated with the group, despite the involvement of his siblings in such activity.  In fact, the thirty-two-year-old told News Five that he was about to get ready for work when he was rounded up along with several others.


Ian Claire

“When I reach deh, I sih other groups ah young men detained, I mean dehn di ask me if I know di fellow detainees and I was like, I mean, dis da Belize everybody know one another.  So, however, we stood there numerous nights, numerous days punishing, hard floor, hot, cold, you name it and what have you.  However, nobody still no seh nothing to me, weh dehn detain me fa, weh dehn have me ya fa.  I mean di numerous a time we deh deh, dehn just seh dat Chester wahn have wah meeting wid we within seven days.  I mean, I work, I noh know nothing bout weh dehn di do, yoh undastand, I work.  So I stood there, noh seh nothing.  No police officer still noh cohn seh nothing bout weh dehn di do, however, between da period a time man still di get released.”


But he wasn’t among them.  Neither was Tyrone Meighan who was being held at the Raccoon Street lockup.  At the end of the seven-day detention they were each given a charge sheet.  Meighan, who is no stranger to the law, lists out the offenses that were being brought against him.


Tyrone Meighan

“It was one charge sheet, they said robberies around the city, activities with gangs and firearms and guns.  But being released from prison I noh give no trouble. Sih di charge sheet ya.  Dis da weh dehn serve we.  Dis da weh worth fu we life, ink and paper.  Dis da weh send we da jail, ink and paper.  Ink and paper, dis da weh fu we life worth right ya.  Dis da weh we worth.  Thirty days da jail, dis da weh we worth.  Watch when dis bun out.  Dis da weh we worth.  Dis da weh we worth, thirty days.”


Ian Claire

“I just stay deh sihdown deh, ride long with di program.  Now after di seven nights and eight days, dis da bout like, I no sure what time it is basically, dehn just bring wahn paper, wahn charges sheet stating you’re gang affiliated.  The next one seh gun and ammunition, armed robbery.  I neva yet get charged eena mi life, neva yet eena mi life.  However, dehn just detain we, handcuff we, send we eena di prison bus, send we up da Central Prison then yoh undastand dat yoh rights get revoked fi thirty days or ih could be extended, fi what?”


During their stay at the Belize Central Prison, the men were never contacted by the forces that incarcerated them, a fact that was reiterated by C.E.O. Virgilio Murillo.


Virgilio Murillo

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

“I just took the initiative as the director to talk to these guys because one of the things I will tell you is that I know a lot of these guys because they’ve been in the system on a number of occasions so they are not necessarily strangers to me.”


Certainly, Tyrone Meighan is very familiar with the prison director.  He was previously on remand for several years after being accused of having committed a capital offence.


Isani Cayetano

“At any point before Mr. Murillo brought you guys together as two different groups, did you at all feel threatened by the fact that you were being held together?”


Tyrone Meighan

“When we were first, when were first.  Fi di first one day or two days yes, it was like that.  But until Mr. Murillo have a meeting, sit we all down eena wahn meeting together like wahn smart person, wahn person with knowledge, yoh undastand, and separate fu we problems from each other, ask yo questions, play wahn lee music fi yo, yo undastand, because music da communication again yo know.”


That communication is what they believe fell apart between themselves and the police department.  As for the effect of prison on Ian Claire, it was indeed an eye opener.


Ian Claire

“Fi me I mean da wahn first, I neva yet, to my lifestyle I pass deh with my kids and thing and I always teach dehn di knowledge about prison.  I neva yet si myself woulda go da prison when I da wahn hard working man weh try di deh fu my family and fu myself, yoh undastand.  I mean, but when we reach deh, yes we de lock up da different prison but noh di same building.  But however, when Mr. Murillo bring we together, you know, put we eena wahn meeting, sit we down and seh dat all ah we da just one black brother, no Spanish noh deh amongst us and you know and all ah we just, weh dehn di kill out each other fa.  But, ah mean, I just stood deh like wahn fool basically because I noh really know di knowledge, I mean ah di tek een at the same time but I noh really know why I need fi hyah all ah dis because nothing a dis got fi do wid me, yo undastand.  So, but da mi wahn good experience when di man bring di two gang members dehn together and try become one fu try mek dehn unite and stop di crime and violence and stop di foolishness because dehn only di hurt up dehnself.”


The respect given to C.E.O. Murillo makes it clear that he has had some impact on their lives, at least while in prison.


Virgilio Murillo

“I’ve been sending them a lot of motivational quotes, quotes from people like Martin Luther King Junior who says we must learn to live together as brothers, otherwise we’ll perish together as fools.  Those are powerful stuff.”


Indeed, they are words to live by, but it is only a matter of time to see if the prison stint has affected these young men in a positive way. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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