Inauguration of the Visiting Justices Program
Sunday, October 2nd, 2022
On September 30, 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries inaugurated the Visiting Justices Program at the Kolbe Foundation, Belize Central Prison. This long-awaited inauguration is timely since the last time the program was utilized was in 2008.
The key objective of the Visiting Justices Program is to have appointed justices of the peace and a magistrate conduct regular visits to the Belize Central Prison as per the Prisons Act Part V, which directs Visiting Justices to look at the overall welfare of prisoners.
Their main functions are to:
1. hear and investigate any complaint which a prisoner may make to them and shall report the same, with their opinion, to the Superintendent, or if necessary to the Minister;
2. inquire into any report which they may receive to the effect that the mind or body of a prisoner is likely to be injured by the conditions of his imprisonment, and shall communicate their opinion to the Minister, or if the case is not urgent, they may recommend to the Superintendent such action as to them may seem expedient; and
3. inspect the diet of the prisoners, and may report thereon to the Superintendent who shall take such steps thereupon as may be necessary, or they may report the matter with their recommendations to the Minister.
In his remarks, Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, stated that “The restoration of the Visiting Justice System will provide a needed reminder that prisoners are not the forgotten or the disposably condemned, but men and women who are fixing themselves and the wrongs they committed so they can get back home.”
Mr. Kevin L. Arthurs, CEO in the Ministry of Home Affairs, added, “Prison separates inmates from their freedom. It separates them from their families but it should never separate the offender from his dignity. It is more important than ever that in penal corrections, jails, holding cells and prisons that we strengthen the policies and systems that maintain the connection to each inmate’s self-respect and human dignity.”
In attendance at today’s session were Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser; Mr. Virgilio Murillo, CEO of Kolbe Foundation; Mr. Adrian Madrid, President of the Association of Justices of Peace; and representatives from the Human Rights Commission of Belize, among other invited guests.
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