Posted: Friday, September 11, 2020. 12:39 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: COVID-19 cases can be found in all six districts and nine municipalities of Belize as well as multiple villages.
But one place it hasn’t been, according to Dr. Jarrod Sadulski of American Military University, is at the Central Prison, Hattieville, Belize District, managed by Kolbe Foundation and its CEO, Virgilio Murillo.
Dr Sadulski writes: “I continue to be amazed by the excellent management practices at the prison despite its limited financial resources. In the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, Belize Central Prison continues to set exemplary practices that have resulted in the prison having had no positive coronavirus cases.”
The U.S. as of August 4, in comparison, has had nearly 87 thousand prisoners countrywide tested positive for COVID-19, 804 dying, and many more released to avoid possibly contracting it. Belize is closing in on 1,400 cases and 19 deaths.
According to Dr. Sadulski, COVID-19 has not spared prisons in the region, causing escapes (more than 1,000 in Brazil) and deaths not attributed to contracting it, but due to anxiety over doing so (five in Argentina, 47 in one day at a prison in Venezuela and 23 in Bogota, Colombia before the height of the pandemic).
“The Hattieville Ramada,” to borrow one of its unflattering nicknames, presently hosts some 1,325 prisoners, we confirmed with Murillo today. This includes some 150 illegal immigrants and another 100 persons for violating the COVID-19 State of Emergency regulations, plus some 95 persons held under the Southside Belize City gang-related state of emergency extended in August, in addition to run-of-the-mill criminals. The inmate population has increased by 9.3 percent since the start of the year.
Despite a mix of limited healthcare services and financial restrictions, the prison has implemented and enforced handwashing, wearing of face masks, and non-contact temperature checks for everyone visiting the prison. High traffic areas within the prison are constantly disinfected including all surfaces, equipment, and staff vehicles. Social distancing is maintained and handwashing stations are strategically placed throughout the prison. Posters and the prison’s radio station educate the prisoners about the disease. Newly admitted inmates are placed in isolation for 14 days.
Murillo told us he expects to maintain the limited visits and other protocols in place until he sees the national curve flattening.
Dr. Sadulski says the prison has taken the opportunity to provide health education to staff and inmates, increasing proper hygiene practices. That has resulted in a commitment by both inmates and staff to adapt a healthier lifestyle.
And there has been little to no conflict between inmates or between inmates and staff. Rather, they have teamed up, such as the process to make masks which are widely sold.
The Caribbean Community Implementing Agency for Crime and Security provided the prison with some COVID-19 specific personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies. However, these are at risk of running out and so the Prison is appealing for more sanitizing supplies – Clorox, hand-sanitizers, liquid soap, et cetera, and disposable face masks, N-95 masks, Hazmat suits, face-shields, and disposable gloves.
Kolbe took over management of the Prison from the Government in August of 2002.
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