Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons season 2 finale recap: ‘Belize: The Prison that Found God’


The season 2 finale of Netflix series Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons takes us to Belize Central Prison, where religion and punishment are a constant.

As the episode begins, Inside the World’s Toughest Prison‘s host Raphael Rowe paints a sobering picture of Belize.

The poor country has the third highest murder rate per capita in the world. He notes how 27 gangs are warring over four square miles of land. Chief among the gangs are the Crips and the Bloods — rival gangs often associated with the United States.

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On the subject of Belize Central Prison, we are told there are 1,300 inmates. Much like Belize itself, the prison struggles.

In the ’90s, the authorities couldn’t properly feed inmates, so the Prison is now run by the Kokbe Foundation.  How is it run? In many ways, it is almost a religious (specifically, Christian) indoctrination center. It even has its own radio station, Jeremiah 33.3 FM, which constantly plays sermons and songs.

Still, some aspects of the place are decidedly un-Christlike. When Rowe stays in Cellblock Tango 8/2, the toilet is nothing but a bucket in the cell.

Also, almost half of the inmates are on remand — which means they’re still awaiting trial. One inmate, Clive Jevan, reveals to Rowe that he’s been in prison for four years without trial!

He explains, “We make our bed hard, we have to sleep on it hard.”

Still, Clive is outdone by another cellmate on remand for six years, who claims he was set up by police. Raphael Rowe was himself locked up for something he didn’t do, so he does not instantly dismiss the cellmates claim.

Would Jesus Run a Prison?

Belize Central Prison isn’t the poorest prison Rowe has stayed in. In fact, one meal consists of fried chicken, rice and beans and gravy — which doesn’t sound that bad.

Still, one of the strange aspects of the place is its theme of religious observance. The Ashcroft Rehabilitation Center is said to teach socialization and anger management, which sounds well and good. However, it’s often clear that prisoners may be rewarded more for expressing belief in god.

A Pastor named Burns is in charge of the ARC rehab center, and it’s run quite literally as a 12-step program. Prisoners are expected to confess their crimes, with the expectation that gang loyalty becomes loyalty to the Christian faith.

Obviously, this would not sit well with believers in separation of church and state, or atheists, or people who are not Christian.

That aside, the center does offer alternatives to violence and gang affiliation. ARC veteran Francisco shows Rowe around the prison’s farm, where they grow vegetables and raise livestock. It’s quite a change for Francisco, who has been in prison for 27 years for extortion, drug trafficking, robbery, and murder.

Rowe notes how he’s changed from a “drug-crazed murderer” to a “God-fearing pig farmer.” The Prison teaches metalwork and carpentry as well.

Life as a Guard

As in the other episodes, Raphael Rowe changes roles and examines life as a prison guard. It’s not the easiest job, as there are three guards for 100 prisoners.

At one point, the head of security, Mr. Bennett, gives a speech about some officer smuggling in two cell phones, and prisoners fighting. These are not good for the prison, and the fighting prisoners are to be placed in “Admin Segregation,” or Ad-Seg.

Mr. Muriillo, the Charismatic Leader

Raphael Rowe seems impressed by the power of Mr. Murillo, Belize Central Prison’s CEO. He is said to be charismatic and in total control, with zero tolerance for rule-breaking.

When asked about Ad-Seg, Murillo calls it “tough love.” Reflecting that it’s a darker side of the prison, Ad-Seg is considered out of bounds for Raphael.

Still, he is curious about it, so he asks around. One prisoner says Ad-Seg gives prisoners “embedded anger,” and that he considered suicide when he was placed under it (and some can be there for two months).

Another prisoner says that Murillo calls himself “God of the prison.” To this Rowe quips, “Is Murillo a just God or a vengeful one?”

As if answering that question, Murillo theorizes that some people are born criminals. Murillo also states to Rowe that no one should be there, that prison should not be an option. Of course, he was saying this to Rowe, who was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years.

In Tango 7, a medium security block, the warden, a Mr. Turner, gives a sermon. He refers to the usurper, Lucifer. Rowe says he’s more preacher than a prison official.

In reaction, Rowe says it feels like brainwashing. Indeed, Turner suggests that the prison’s an opportunity to re-mold its inmates. Specifically, Turner says it’s best to embrace and preach to prisoners when they return from Ad-Seg.

The Final Verdict

Despite its offensive nature to secularists (and others, one can be sure), many would say Belize Central Prison is in better hands since Kolbe took over.

The re-offending rate has apparently gone from 73 to 23 percent, which is undeniably significant.  Rowe says they seem to be doing something right. Of course, for those who rebel or re-offend, there is no mercy, and you sure don’t want to be an atheist if you’re behind these bars.

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That’s it for the season finale of Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons! What do you think of this prison? Let us know in the comments!