My name is Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, and I conduct research in Central and South America on current issues in the field of criminal justice. One area of study involves prison management. I have studied prisons in the United States, Europe, and Central America.
Based on my findings over the past couple of years in comparing prisons in these regions, the Belize Central Prison has always stood out to me as a very well-run prison that operates on a very limited budget. Through its faith-based rehabilitation programs, inmates learn skills that can be used to obtain gainful employment once their sentence is over.
The Belize Central Prison continues to have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world. Based on my research, I attribute that to the leadership of Mr. Murillo and the Kolbe Foundation. The recidivism rate in Belize is around 14%. In the United States it can be as high as 83% and in Mexico, it is between 80-90%.
The events that occurred on October 12th involving the prison escape are disheartening and reflect that despite training and measures being in place to prevent this type of event, within the prison setting inmates occasionally overtake guards, guards are caught by surprise, and problems occur.
Earlier this year, 75 inmates escaped from a prison in Paraguay. Also, this year, 40 inmates were killed and another 50 were injured in a prison riot in Venezuela. Back in March, there was a prison riot over coronavirus concerns at the Modelo Prison in Bogota, Colombia that left 23 prisoners dead, 83 inmates injured, and seven prison officers in a critical situation. Around the same time, there were mass riots at 13 other prisons across Colombia. In Brazil earlier this year, 1,375 inmates escaped. In the United States, there was a riot in a Washington state prison that involved 200 inmates in April, and earlier this summer, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons implemented full lockdowns across prisons in the United States due to unrest.
Despite the best management practices that may be in place, there are two factors plaguing prisons, which are a lack of financial resources and the coronavirus. At the Belize Central Prison, the prison receives only $14 per day per inmate. In the United States, according to the Bureau of Prisons, prisons can receive as high as $99.45 for average daily prisoner costs.
Financial resources at a prison impact the ability to have the equipment and personnel needed to prevent escapes. A camera system in the area where the Belize Prison break occurred is an immediate need of the prison, which is hindered by a lack of financial resources.
The coronavirus pandemic has been responsible for prison uprisings around the world. According to Equal Times, since the pandemic began, more than 1,000 inmates escaped from prisons in Brazil; five inmates have died in riots in Argentina, and 47 inmates died in one day at the Los Llanos prison in Venezuela. Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the prison population.
In the United States, as of October 6, 2020, at least 143,243 people in prison have tested positive for the coronavirus and there have been at least 1,211 deaths within the prison population. The Belize Central Prison was successful in keeping the coronavirus out of the prison for a long time and for much longer than many other prisons around the world. That also speaks to the leadership of the Kolbe Foundation and their dedication to effective prison management.
The first known coronavirus-related fatality in a U.S. prison occurred on March 26, 2020, when Anthony Cheek, a 49-year-old inmate in Lee State Prison died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. By May of this year, Mexico already had 93 confirmed cases in Mexican prisons.
The coronavirus is such a challenge in prisons because it induces fear in inmates, which can lead to disturbances and escapes. I am confident that the coronavirus pandemic is the biggest factor that led to this escape.
In the wake of the escape at the Belize Central Prison, it is important to recognize the need for financial support to help the prison improve its infrastructure and to equip itself with state-of-the-art equipment that can help reduce the risk of a future escape.
Please feel free to reach out to me for further comment at [email protected]
Jarrod Sadulski, Ph.D.
(Ed. NOTE: Dr.Sadulski said that his research was conducted in 2019 and 2020, although he researched the history before and after the Kolbe Foundation took over prison management in August 2002.)
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