In its darker years, it was called the Hattieville Ramada, a place of violence where inmates were killed and body parts were hacked in cells. That scary place has been transformed. The Belize Central Prison has been managed for over a decade and a half by the Kolbe Foundation. The foundation is named after Saint Maximillian Kolbe who was canonized and declared a Martyr of charityby Pope John Paul II in 1982. Kolbe is the patron saint of amateur radio operators, drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. The prison has all those types except the political ones and journalists, of course. Love News went behind the walls to see how the staff was commemorating the week.
Jose Sanchez: The prison, managed by the Kolbe Foundation, is celebrating Kolbe week on the sixteenth anniversary of when the group sought to manage the care and rehabilitation of convicted individuals while also providing housing for people awaiting trial.
Virgillio Murillo CEO Kolbe Foundation: It started on Monday and it ends tomorrow Friday with Karaoke and other couple activities so that is pretty much it for that.
Jose Sanchez: Is it something that is being celebrated by staff and prisoners?
Virgillio Murillo CEO Kolbe Foundation:No this an activity that is specifically and strictly for staff. Jose you will agree that working in a prison is a very tense environment. We are engaged in a lot of activities as it relates to caring for prisoners and ensuring the safe custody of prisoners, supervising prisoners and that in itself is very stressful aside form listening to all the problems that prisoners may have as well as fellow staff may have so it is a very stressful environment and this is a time of the year that we celebrate. I want to explain that the reason we celebrate it around this time is because 16 years ago on the 1st of August 2002 we commenced our first five year contract with the Government of Belize to manage the prison and in commemoration or as our anniversary date we select the first week in August normally to celebrate Kolbe’s presence and existence.
Jose Sanchez: The staff isn’t on holiday. While they work, they also take part in fun activities.
Voice 1: I am an officer here; I have been working here for ten years. I am supervisor for the maximum security. That is the area that I currently function at this moment.
Jose Sanchez: The prison system can be; being at the prison itself is a very stressful environment. Maintaining people behind bars, some for many years. How significant is it to be celebrating the day in some fun activities with your coworkers.
Voice 1: Yes it’s very; it’s all sorts of activities, it’s very interacting in the sense that we don’t really get time to be with one another in this environment; like you said before it is very stressful. I am a little out of breath because I just did a competition but nevertheless it bring us together as one body. You know we are trying to maintain that unity amongst ourselves as co-workers. In any environment that you work; you know to have to some type of level of stress and it is very important not only on the job but off the job as well because we do have activities where we gather together and we might have eat or something of that sort off the job so we do try to keep that bond in tact whether we are here or off the job.
Voice 2: Well I won’t call it stressful because we are here to rehabilitate prisoners before they go back into society and its just a relaxation for us as staff to have fun while at work because his day we are still working but just a little time for ourselves.
Jose Sanchez: Is it important; is it working the prison is like just working at any other environment. Is it the same?
Voice 2: Well it is fairly little bit kinda strainful at times because of dealing with all types of cases and criminals you know so I wont say it’s the same; it’s just challenging at times. When people think about prison; they think prison is a bad place. Well prison officers aren’t bad; no we just enforce that law as time goes by and I like working here. Actually this is my first year; I am fairly new and I love working at Kolbe Foundation.
Virgillio Murillo CEO Kolbe Foundation: Remember it is Kolbe’s mission; we are trying to ensure meaningful rehabilitation for successful reintegration but certainly in a secure and umane fashion so the staff get to now appreciate the role that they play in this mission.
Jose Sanchez for Love News.