Posted: Friday, November 1, 2019. 8:37 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: If you haven’t heard much about the Belize Central Prison in Hattieville, Belize District lately (except for who’s going there), that’s with good reason.
American academic Jarrod Sadulski, who visited the prison earlier this year as a guest speaker with Galen University and conducted research on inmate rehabilitation, has found that Belize has a rate of recidivism (the tendency of an offender to re-offend on leaving prison) at just ten percent, compared to 83 percent in the United States and between 80 and 90 percent in Mexico, despite their larger prison populations and greater resources.
Per the prison’s official statistics, permanent inmate figures are just about 1,200 in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and have gone down from an all-time high of more than 1,500 in 2013-2014. The prison has been confiscating less smuggled marijuana, cell phones for communication and weapons each year since then as well. There have been fewer escapes reported (the last was in April when a prisoner was shot dead by Police) and incidents of internal unrest.
The key, says Dr. Sadulski, is the faith-based approach of the prison’s managers, Kolbe Foundation, which put the focus on rehabilitation both to remove vices such as drugs and alcohol and put inmates back on the path to self-fulfillment by emphasizing the teaching of trade and agricultural skill among other things.
Inmates he spoke to, Dr. Sadulski says, are determined to turn their lives around, and the prison allows them feedback into management. The guards are professional and professionally trained; in one instance, Dr. Sadulski describes seeing 1 guard overseeing 25 inmates chopping grass outside the prison walls with no disturbance.
Of course, the reciprocity of businesses and citizens on the outside not stigmatizing prisoners on their release remains a challenge and one the prison hopes to overcome.
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