The European Union’s Ambassador to Belize and the Caribbean, Her Excellency Paola Amadei, is on her latest visit to Belize from her base in Jamaica, and one of her stops is the Hattieville Prison. On Wednesday she addressed a gathering of inmates and guests on the issue of prison reform. The Ambassador says that more humane conditions such as are depicted in a film screened for the prisoners today can turn the tide on inhumane treatment.
“I believe the time spent in prison should be an opportunity. People have to pay for what they have done; they need to be punished for it but it is important that the punishment is not gratuitous, that they have training new skills and offered a new chance. This film is dedicated to the second chances to all these people who have had a conflict with the law, but we hope that in the future we’ll be able to contribute to society. We have shown this film very widely in Jamaica, especially to young people, students, because we want them also to understand what they risk if they get in conflict with the law, and also for them to understand how important it is to continue to engage with people independently from their criminal past.”
Administrator of the Prison and Kolbe Foundation, John Woods, discussed how the Hattieville Prison has turned around since the 1990s when Kolbe took over.
“Thanks for both Mr. Burgess and myself. We were building the road in front, Dickie Bradley was Minister and my wife’s cousin and he asked me to perform a group of businessmen to come in here and look at advising on the management, and Cenny and I came here and we used to working with large groups of men because of construction business. We were horrified at what we saw. Thre was just a tremendous amount of cruelty I saw and the food was certainly…I know institutional food will always get a bad name, but really at the time , there were a bunch of people that were cooks and they were showing up at 10 o’clock in the morning. So, if you got chicken, it might still be frozen on the inside. The rice was certainly full of stuff and there was…I guess what I think, there was no potable water in the prison, and I was telling a lady from the European Union there were probably the only prison right now that has a reverse osmosis system drinking water, and that just happened this year”.
And John Woods backed his charges to turn their lives around and take advantage of their opportunities to make life better for themselves and others.
Mr. John Woods: “We have all kinds of people here that have wonderful talent and I know that we promised it many times. So, I think that I am going to thank the ambassador for raising the awareness that we have to push to music; we have to push that talent that we know it’s here. We have that talent shows that takes place in the auditorium. We got a guy that has a hundred poems.. Sang Hertular and you can say No. 64 and he can recite No. 64 for you. You are in 23. Unbelievable talents are within these walls here. And the music is such a beautiful way to express your emotions to help cleanse the soul as you saw many examples in there”.