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Sep 9, 2020

Inmates at Belize Central Prison Top National Online High School Program

Over the years, we have been covering a lot of what goes on behind the walls of the Belize Central Prison. Tonight we bring you an uplifting story of two minors at the Wagner’s Youth Facility where minors are incarcerated. Both signed up for the Kaina Online Programme. Well today the two have defied the odds to accomplish their education, placing first and third in the online high school programme. Here is Isani Cayetano with a report. 


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Welcome to Wagner’s Youth Facility, a department of the Belize Central Prison that houses juvenile offenders.  Confined within are two teenagers, individually charged for murder and awaiting trial.  Both young men have been incarcerated for the better part of the last two years and biding time means completing their high school education.  Through the Kolbe Foundation and its partner agencies, they enrolled in Kaina Online High School where they topped the national programme by placing first and third, respectively.


Virgilio Murillo, CEO, Kolbe Foundation

Virgilio Murillo

“These two young men who are under the age of eighteen-years-old, one of them had a 91.4 overall average, percent average, and he came in first and he received merits, three merits… He received merits, first place in math and biology and second place in English, according to my information here.”


Leading the course is an inmate who stands accused of committing a most heinous crime.  In October 2018, nineteen-year-old Bobby Garcia was murdered inside a temple at Cahal Pech, in what appeared to be a ritual sacrifice.  His alleged killer was only sixteen-years-old at the time.


Inmate One, First Place Student

“When I first got here, I mean, I guess it was a little bit of a struggle because I had to get along with everybody else.  So that was kind of one of my challenges because I’m not really used to socializing.  I was antisocial, so I guess that’s one of the achievements.”


Over the past two years, Inmate One, as we will refer to him, is coming of age behind prison walls.  When he entered the penal system back in 2018, Satanic worship was the centerpiece of his life.  Having been exorcized of that demon, education is now his primary pursuit and he has excelled academically, despite the challenges.


Inmate One

“We have like limited internet access, so we can’t really do all the research that we need to get hundreds for all the subjects.  So we would need help from Mr. Dawson here and download some Youtube videos explaining the subjects of the course.”


There to mentor the students is William Dawson.  As director of Wagner’s Youth Facility, he can relate to the struggles of these young inmates.


William Dawson, Director, Wagner’s Youth Facility

William Dawson

“This type of work, you have to be completely invested and it can’t be a job, it has to be something personal.  Working with at-risk young people is one of the passions that I come with because I, myself, at one point in time was an at-risk youth and I know in detail the support system that needs to be in place for one of those types of young people to become successful.  Unfortunately, young people who come to prison come for committing some type of infraction in society but we have a nurturing environment here where we don’t look at the crime that the young men come to prison for, but rather we look at the personalities, the talent and the skills that they possess.”


One such individual is Inmate Two.  Like his colleague, he is also very articulate and passionate about learning.  Regrettably, it has taken incarceration for him to value the importance of a sound education.


Inmate Two, Third Place Student

“It was a bit challenging because the incarceration, I was away from my family, but I built a close relationship with each and everyone, so it was a bit easier to focus on what I was doing.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now you’ve come in third which is a fairly high rank in terms of the number of persons enrolled in the program this time around.  How do you feel?”


Inmate Two

“Well it’s a very good feeling.  I feel really excited that I have made my family members proud, Mr. Dawson, Mr. Murillo, everyone.”


Imprisonment does not mean an end to academic pursuit.  In fact, it is mandated under the Nelson Mandela Rules.


Virgilio Murillo

“Education of inmates is a must.  When a person comes to prison it doesn’t mean that they are deprived of education or the opportunity for an education.”


Isani Cayetano reporting 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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