Late South African statesman Nelson Mandela, famous for having served nearly 3 decades in jail before becoming president of his nation, was quoted today as saying, “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” End quote. It is the expressed philosophy of the Kolbe Foundation, managers of the Belize Central Prison that no prisoner, even the worst criminal mind, is beyond reform and rehabilitation and receiving a second chance. But as many ex-convicts will tell you, a criminal record of any kind is a scarlet letter forever branding them as untrustworthy – indeed, for thvlcsnap-2016-07-28-09h48m41s145ose who try to get around it, as CEO Virgilio Murillo told us today, it is more like a death sentence:

Virgilio Murillo, CEO of Kolbe Foundation;

The problem is, well I always believe that whenever a person finds prison as the most comfortable place to be then there must be a problem with society because I agree; there are ex-convicts that go looking for job after they left prison and that criminal record is certainly there death certificate so to speak. They bounce around and knock around trying to get a job, some of them end up lying about not having a criminal record just to get a job and it really hurts them and I’m hoping that society will start looking at these guys a little bit differently. I know for a fact that quite a number of them genuinely made mistakes in their lives  and they have gotten their act together and if you would use their head count as a tell-tale sign I think the handwriting is on the wall, you can see it.

Murillo explained that he has had to deal with employers who have fired ex-convicts after finding out about their records – their favorite excuse is that the worker is outstanding and exemplary otherwise, but the criminal record rules them out. He told us that the prison now provides records of the prisoner’s stay – but it is up to society to change their minds:

Virgilio Murillo, CEO of Kolbe Foundation;

Well, one of the things Kolbe those is we qualify inmates when they take the program we issue them a certificate that would quantify the amount of rehabilitation they have taken. I think this year we begun to put a number of hours to it rather than just giving a certificate or saying you graduated, we started putting a time on it so if you did ninety hour that is what is going to show up. I believe that people need to look at the program that these people are participated in because they will have sort of a report card when they leave and they should take all of those thing into consideration, like I said, people need to be given a second chance and people genuinely have made mistakes. I know there are some criminals that would never change, not matter what you try or how you try hard for them but those ones are very few. All in all they should look at this whole thing and try to see how they can give the person a chance and let the person prove him or herself.   

The Prison currently has 1,425 total inmates, not counting those on remand. That figure is actually down from the 1,562 recorded last year. AND on a point of interest, CEO Virgilio Murillo revealed that the Government pays 13 dollars per prisoner per day to run the prison – pay salaries, obtain food, utilities and so on. That comes up to about 6.74 million dollars per year currently. The Foundation obtains donations from other sources especially to meet obligations for rehabilitation programs.

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