To the Editor:
Since the main prison in the country of Belize was moved from Belize City years ago and taken to Hattieville, several infractions have been committed by prison wardens, prisoners and people who visit their relatives who are incarcerated. Most of the infractions that are occurring, are in violation of Belize’s criminal laws and the Prison Ordinance.
In addition, the criminals coming to Belize from the United States and other neighboring countries are so well seasoned that public safety is at risk when these people escape from prison. Belize has more than enough land to build a prison elsewhere in the country where they can relocate hard-core criminals and separate them from the criminals who are serving time for minor offenses.
I have never heard of Belize having a Belize Warden Training Academy. Belize has training academies for members of the Belize Police Force and Defense Force. In the past, people were just randomly recruited, taken to the prison on Gabourel Lane, given uniforms and then you see them wearing prison warden uniforms.
I am not sure if this process has been upgraded since the 1970s. To have people who have not received any type of training be given such a dangerous job put that person and the lives of other citizens at great risk. Prisoners are human beings and they do not like confinement. Even though one can say that confinement of a prisoner is due to his or her own cause, they will still find a way to escape from prison if given the opportunity.
When the main prison was in the city of Belize, some of the prisoners were taken to Rockville and other surrounding areas of the city to work while serving their terms in prison. Others stayed inside the prison compound and learned different types of trades as part of their rehabilitation process.
This was a good program because many of these former criminals were rehabilitated and became law abiding and productive citizens. Most of them were engaged in a profession in the communities where they lived after their release from prison. Today in Belize, there is an increase in the amount of apprehension for crimes that are being committed by repeat offenders.
The rehabilitation of prisoners while they are incarcerated, is an integral part of a crime prevention program and the government must be aware of its positive impact.
Studies conducted in the past, confirm that countries that have a good rehabilitation program in their prisons have seen a substantial decrease in their crime rates. The hard -core criminals present more danger to the society than the first offenders. To have them mixed together in the same prison is not a wise thing to do. All they will do is talk about the crimes that they committed while they were on the streets and how they avoided the police.
In today’s world with the rise in gangs, it is public knowledge that recruitment takes place in prisons throughout the world. It is documented that in many prisons, not only is recruitment taking place but some criminal activities are being planned in those prisons. This is why electronic devices have to be installed in these prisons to monitor prisoners, their visitors and prison personnel.
In the United States when people go to visit a prisoner, they feel like prisoners themselves, and this is one of the main reasons why people only go if they have to. Since 911 the United States is like a prison everywhere, because when going into most federal, state and city buildings, you are searched thoroughly before you enter the building like a criminal. American citizens are annoyed by this new development but cannot do anything about it.
I applaud the new reform measures that the government of Belize have put forward. I am also conscious of the fact that for every proposal put forward, the issue of funding will always be the determining factor as to whether to implement or not, every given proposal. Including this reform agenda can only help to enhance more security in our country.
Belize is surrounded by the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who are having more problems with their gangs and hard-core criminals. When these criminals escape from their respective countries, they will come to Belize and try to intermingle with the Belizean population. This will seriously jeopardize the safety of our citizens and government officials.
In Mexico today, the criminals are creating so much havoc that they are threatening the country’s national security. Members of the Mexican government are being assassinated and more are targeted for assassinations. Government officials and citizens of the country continue to live in fear for their lives. The United States government is concerned that these people will be doing the same in their country and it is in their interest to assist these countries to stop this reign of terror. America is willing to provide Belize and all the countries with the funds and the technical equipments they need to stop this new wave of crime in their countries.
Hon. Doug Singh, the Belize minister of police and public safety, should seek the assistance of the U.S. ambassador in Belize to call on his government to assist us.
In a statement made by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she spoke about the crime situation in the region and the need for governments to act swiftly to stop crime. I am certain that she knows that the countries in the region do not have the financial resources and the technology to do it on their own.
Belize was always a safe place to live. In fact, the biggest problem with violent crimes is in the city of Belize and we must stop these crimes now, before they spread into other districts throughout our peaceful and beloved country.
Wellington C. Ramos