Over one hundred and thirty people are currently in prison after they were arrested during the State of Emergency for the southside Belize City. As the expiration date, October 5, nears, the prisoners are preparing for their release. That is, of course, unless the SOE is extended, which, according to Kolbe Foundation’s CEO, Virgilio Murillo, is possible. But as these prisoners await their fate, there are others who are making good use of their time in prison. Two inmates in particular have decided to earn their high school diploma online with Kaina High School. They performed exceptionally well with one of the students topping their class and the other placing third among the total students. These inmates have had to complete their studies while in prison and amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Still, they preserved, and their hard work was recognized with a small graduation ceremony at the Belize Central Prison. CEO of the Kolbe Foundation, Virgilio Murillo stated that while they were unable to have their usual ceremonies because of covid-19, it was important to acknowledge the inmates.
Virgilio Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “We believe that they deserve recognition. Like I said in my talk earlier not because a person comes to prison education stops as a matter of fact when it comes to youngsters, these under eighteens particularly we must make the education for them compulsory. We are mandated to do that by international standards but along with responsibility and that mandate we also need to recognize them because everybody likes to be recognized when they do something good not only when they do something bad and I thought this means a lot to these two youngsters. I am hoping that with this ceremony it will create some kind of anxiousness or jealousy on the part of the others so that they may want to follow suit. They competed among twenty others and this is a national thing, this all over the country and one of them came in first and the other came in third so that is very significant. It has never happened in the history of the prison as far as I am aware and I think it deserves all the recognition we could possibly get.”
Other young inmates who are enrolled in online classes were also recognized during this ceremony. Murillo explained that these classes are instrumental in preparing their youths to be released back into society.
Virgilio Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “In prison all the prisoners have on their hands is what you call time. There’s really nowhere for them to go everything is restricted and controlled so why not make good use of that time and we encourage them. With respect to youngsters we force them into the education system because we are obliged to make sure education is compulsory. They shouldn’t have a say or they shouldn’t decide whether they go to school or not they must go to school that is by law and the other guys that got recognized were those guys who were participating in the what you call the computer assisted learning program. That is a program that teachers numeracy and literacy so you will find out that a lot of these guys come to prison and don’t know how to read or write, they don’t know how to do basic mathematics or arithmetic if you want to call it that and that program actually teaches them to do that. It makes us proud no doubt and it does show that we’re teaching them, we’re educating them. As a matter of fact we do this for the adult population as well only that not all of them are participating in educational programs in and around the country but we have various ways of educating prisoners.”
Other inmates were also recognized for their work within the prison with the youths.