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Visiting Justices Program returns after 15-year absence

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Posted: Friday, September 30, 2022. 5:10 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: For the first time since 2008, members of the Magistracy and Justices of the Peace will be appointed to conduct regular visits to the Belize Central Prison in the return of what is legally known as the Visiting Justices Program.

The program is covered under the Prisons Act which directs Visiting Justices to look at the overall welfare of prisoners. Their functions and powers include: 1. hearing and investigating any complaint which a prisoner may make to them and shall report the same, with their opinion, to the Superintendent, or if necessary to the Minister; inquiring into any report which they may receive to the effect that the mind or body of a prisoner is likely to be injured by the conditions of his imprisonment, and shall communicate their opinion to the Minister, or if the case is not urgent, they may recommend to the Superintendent such action as to them may seem expedient; and inspecting the diet of the prisoners on which they may report thereon to the Superintendent who shall take such steps thereupon as may be necessary, or they may report the matter with their recommendations to the Minister.

Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa, whose Ministry is in charge of the prison system, told today’s audience that: “The restoration of the Visiting Justice System will provide a needed reminder that prisoners are not the forgotten or the disposably condemned, but men and women who are fixing themselves and the wrongs they committed so they can get back home.”

Kevin L. Arthurs, CEO of the Ministry of Home Affairs, added, “Prison separates inmates from their freedom. It separates them from their families but it should never separate the offender from his dignity. It is more important than ever that in penal corrections, jails, holding cells and prisons, we strengthen the policies and systems that maintain the connection to each inmate’s self-respect and human dignity.”

The Justices of the Peace to be appointed under the system will be recommended directly to the Governor-General.

In attendance at today’s session were Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser; Virgilio Murillo, CEO of Kolbe Foundation; Adrian Madrid, President of the Association of Justices of Peace; and representatives from the Human Rights Commission of Belize, among other invited guests.

 

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