BELIZE CITY, Wed. Dec. 4, 2019– A twenty-year-old man, who was on remand at the Kolbe Foundation-managed Belize Central Prison and was put in a section of the prison that authorities at the facility call the “Administrative Segregation,” a place of isolation for violators of the prison rules, has sued the prison.
On two occasions in November, on the 25th and 29th , 2016, the inmate, whom we will only refer to as the Claimant, became the victim of an unnatural crime and battery when he allegedly was overpowered and sexually assaulted by another prisoner.
The lawsuit is seeking damages, including aggravated and exemplary damages for the harm and consequent personal injuries that were suffered by the claimant due to the unnatural crime, which was a result of the negligence of the prison. The lawsuit has named the Attorney General of Belize and the Superintendent of Prisons as the first and second defendants.
The trial was held today in the Supreme Court of Justice Shona Griffith. The Claimant was among several witnesses, including the defendant, Prison CEO Virgilio Murillo, who gave testimony from the witness stand.
Attorney Anthony Sylvestre is representing the Claimant, while CEO of the prison, Murillo, is being represented by attorney Philip Zuniga; and the Attorney General is being represented by Crown Counsels Kimberly Wallace and Lovina Cuellar.
At the end of the trial this afternoon, the attorneys agreed to file written submissions by December 17, and if there is a response, this should be submitted by December 20. Justice Griffith has set January 7 as judgment day.
The court papers that were filed state that the Claimant, as an untried prisoner, should not have been put in a cell with a convicted prisoner who was serving time.
Furthermore, the Claimant suffered as a result of the negligence of prison officer Louis Manson.
Manson, who took the witness stand, was fired over the incident by CEO Murillo.
In listing the particulars of injury suffered by the Claimant, the papers which were filed for the case stated, “The Claimant suffered abrasions to the right arm, abrasions to the right wrist, edema swelling inside the anus, and trauma caused by rectal penetration; the said injuries have been classified as harm.”
Sylvester suggested to Manson under cross-examination that he was not authorized to give medication to prisoners.
Manson responded by saying that he contacted the medic at the prison and he was told that he could give the painkiller to the Claimant.
Manson denied that the Claimant told him that he was “chanced” by the other prisoner in the cell.
Manson did not give a statement about the incident to the police.
Sylvester also asked Manson why he did not do anything when the prison terminated his service without following the rules for such a termination.
Manson replied that didn’t know that he could have challenged his termination.
Sylvestre pressed Manson, suggesting to him that when the Claimant reported the incident to him, he smirked and walked away.
Manson was terminated immediately when CEO Murillo learned about the incident.
In his written statement, the Claimant detailed what had happened to him in the cell around 1:00 a.m. on November 25, 2017.
“I was in cell 29 when I was awakened by someone choking me by the neck from behind. The struggle lasted for about 10 seconds, and I thereafter went unconscious. When I regained consciousness, my body was in pain all over, in particular my anus. I went to the shower section of cell 29 and checked myself with a piece of toilet paper, and noticed some white substance on the toilet paper. I realized that I had been sexually assaulted and battered.”
The Claimant said that the other prisoner threatened him with further violence if he made a report about the incident.
The Claimant added, “Prison Officer Manson smirked when I made the report to him, and he told me that he would have related the report to the doctor, but no medical doctor came to attend to me. Prison Officer Manson instead brought me three ibuprofen tablets for me to take that day.”
The Claimant, under cross-examination, told the court that he had not previously met the prisoner who assaulted him until he was put in Administrative Segregation.
When he was asked if he saw prison guards patrolling the area, the Claimant replied, “now and again.”
The Claimant told the court that he did not see the person from the Prisoner Advisory Committee coming around.
Initially, when the Claimant was put in Administrative Segregation, there was a third prisoner in the cell, but he was eventually transferred to another building.
It was after the third prisoner was moved to the other building that the assault of the Claimant took place. The Claimant admitted that he felt threatened when he was left alone with the prisoner who assaulted him.
The Claimant said that he saw the other prisoner masturbating, but didn’t think anything about it, because he thought that that was what men (in prison) did.
The Claimant said that during the two months that he was there, he only saw the Prison Advisory representative twice.
“When I got raped, I was praying that an officer would come,” the Claimant said.
The Claimant also said, “When I got raped, I told an officer that the man raped, chanced me. I walked in front of the rickets and told the officer that the man rape me. I waited all day for the officer to come and take me to the medic. I stayed in my cell all day and didn’t even bathe.”
The Claimant added: “The last time he raped me, I said that I was going to kill him in the cell, and then kill myself.”
Prison CEO Murillo was the final witness to testify.
Murillo admitted under cross-examination that the rules at the prison are outdated. Murillo said he had discussed that fact with National Security CEO George Lovell.
Murillo explained that the government subsidizes prisoners to the tune of “US $7 per day for each prisoner.”
There is only one doctor at the prison. When the Claimant was raped, there were 1,301 prisoners at the prison that the single doctor had to attend to, Murillo told the court.
Murillo went on to explain, under cross-examination from Sylvestre, that the medical aspect of the contract with the Kolbe Foundation is not being honored by the government.
Murillo admitted that he terminated prison guard Manson without giving him a hearing “and that that was wrong,” and he cannot undo it.
Murillo said he terminated Manson, “because I got emotional. It was my reputation that was on the line. Something like this has never happened in the prison before.”
Feature photo: Virgilio Murillo