BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 16, 2019– Today, the Kolbe Foundation announced a breakthrough they’ve made in handling court adjournments for prisoners on remand. For years, individuals awaiting sentencing for criminal acts have had to be transported to the Magistrate and Supreme courts, only for the cases to be adjourned and the inmates returned to prison by the magistrates and judges because the state is not prepared to proceed with trial.
In the case of many, these adjournments occur frequently over the course of several years, much to the inconvenience of the prison, the police and especially the government, who have to provide transportation and security every time an inmate is due in court.
With the aid of the US Government, the Judiciary and the prison have devised an efficient solution to this ongoing challenge.
The “Courtroom to Prison Video Live Link” is a new system by means of which imprisoned individuals will attend their hearings via teleconferencing from a newly constructed conference building at the prison. Judges, magistrates and US Embassy diplomats convened at the prison for a ceremony in which the conference building and video equipment were officially handed over to the government of Belize.
The CEO of the Belize Central Prison, Virgilio Murillo, as well as Chief Justice Hon. Kenneth Benjamin, spoke at the ceremony, explaining the need for such a system to be set in place – to reduce the risks of constantly having to transport the inmates as well as increase the efficiency of the courts.
Keith Gilges, Charge d’ Affaires of the US Embassy, explained the two-part components of the project, which will be used specifically for hearings and will connect the prison to four courtrooms located in Belize City.
Arraignments and trials, however, will still be done in court.
The project cost is just over US $387,000, and is hoped to be operational in a matter of weeks. The Chief Justice informed the media that for the project to be put into full effect, there are laws related to the operation of the video link which need to be set in place – the draft of which are near completion and will be submitted to the Attorney General for approval.
In addition to hearings, there are plans that prisoners will also be able to make bail applications on their own behalf through this medium. This is to assist impoverished defendants who cannot afford an attorney to still have an opportunity to appeal to the courts.