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The mini court inside the Prison links to Courthouse

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The Prison Video Link Project launch was held today behind the walls of the Belize Central Prison in Hattieville. The U.S. Embassy donated the building and equipment for the brand new Prison Courthouse and the Video Link System. Love News attended the unveiling of the project which was designed to modernize the operation of the criminal justice system.

Jose Sanchez – Reporter: The cutting of ribbon marked the dawn of a new day for the Belize Central Prison and the Judiciary with implantation of a video conferencing system to link the remanded inmates with the court without leaving the confines of the prison walls.”

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin: “Invariably the prison transportation hasn’t arrived by the time court is set to begin and as a consequence a lot of time is lost not only for the Magistrates and the Judges but also from other court users, people who come to see the outcome of the cases that are before the court. Now, this facility is intended to deal with those noncontroversial aspects of the criminal justice process. Often than not we have defendants who travel all the way from Hattieville to Belize City only to be told that the matter is adjourned to another date or that the disclosure is not ready. This will enable the transporting of only those critical prisoners who are going actually for their trial or for their sentencing as against those who are going merely to make a bail application or perhaps just to get an adjournment of their case from one date to another.”

Jose Sanchez – Reporter: “How soon do you foresee this actually being implemented with the court?”

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin: “It is dependent upon ensuring that the rules that go along with the operation with the video link are made into law. We do have the draft, it is almost final and it would be left to the Attorney General’s Chamber to assist us in bringing into force.”

Jose Sanchez – Reporter: “Regarding training of the court, I know you are doing something similar when it comes to the Caribbean Court of Justice but has the court received training in using the instruments?”

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin: Yes, the training has already been completed. In the Supreme Court the Maritals have been trained, in the Magistrates Court because they have full control of the courts they too have been trained and we have some photographs that are on display of when the training was carried out. Of course like everything else like new technology, the training has to be repeated, repeated and reinforced in order to ensure that equipment is maximized.”

Jose Sanchez – Reporter: The Charge d Affairs for the US Embassy in Belize spoke about the donation of the building and the equipment which was valued at $774,000 Bz.”

Keith Kigles – Charge d Affairs, US Embassy: “What we really talk about is the partnership between the US and Belize and that has been going on for years and years. This particular program is part of our three priorities which is: citizen security, economic prosperity, and good governance so this program was started a number of years ago. I am proud that we finally have the opportunity to launch it today. It was a great event and thanks to everybody for putting that on. It really is a huge team effort and it was a partnership between people that work at the Embassy, folks who work at the Judiciary and folks at the Kolbe Foundation to make all this happen. It is a very ambitious project the technology that they are using, the microwave technology to be able to connect from here to the Courthouses in Belize City is state of the art and so we are really proud that we can help bring that degree of efficiency and efficacy to the justice system here. It is just one element of a broader partnership that we have.”

Jose Sanchez – Reporter: “Inside the many courtrooms there is a direct link to the courthouse in Belize City since there is this room that is connected to Chief Magistrates Court Room but having the judiciary behind prison walls indicates two different management systems and rules in one establishment. Kolbe CEO Virgilio Murillo explained how the facility will be utilized and managed.”

Virgilio Murillo – CEO Kolbe Foundation: “The only thing that will be a little bit different is that now the inmate does not necessarily need to go into Belize City anymore. He can do that through video conferencing so that is really the biggest switch in terms of the entire process.”

Jose Sanchez – Reporter: “In terms of the actual preparation how many people will be manning on a daily basis this facility and is there anyone from the court that will be here. Whose rules are we utilizing? Prison rules or Court Rules?”

Virgilio Murillo – CEO Kolbe Foundation:Well, it has its own set of rules, there is a video to courtlink rules and we recently got those emailed to us so we are still reading the details of it to see how we are going to operate. I know definitely, we have an idea of how it is going to run. The prisoner will be escorted to the video conferencing facility by a prison guard and then I guess the attorney can be here with the prisoner where he does his video conferencing and does that kind of stuff. I think the majority of the prisoners that are coming here will be coming here pretty much to get an adjournment for their cases like the Chief Justice said in his speech when it comes to the actual trail they will have to be in person so it is really just to get that adjournment.”

Jose Sanchez – Reporter: The system also saves on travel and security cost to take prisoners to the city, Jose Sanchez for Love News.”

The U.S. Embassy has stated that it continues to support Belize in its effort to enhance citizen security, strengthen the judicial sector and improve governance by supporting democratic institutions and the rule of law.

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