Food For The Poor (FFTP) has secured the release of 68 prisoners, who committed non-violent offences in Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and Honduras, in time to spend Christmas with their families.
The non-violent prisoners were incarcerated due to their inability to pay required fines.
“There are large numbers of desperate people who are locked in jail, people who have been forgotten because they stole whatever they could, to try to feed their hungry families,” said Robin Mahfood, Food For the Poor’s President/CEO.
“It is a serious situation. The Gospel message strengthens and reminds us to give a hand up to others who dwell in darkness.”
As part of the ongoing programme, 17 prisoners were released from St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, Jamaica, on December 10. One of the inmates was a 45-year-old barber from Kingston, Jamaica. On December 9, bailiffs took him from his shop because he had breached the Debtors Act, an offense that warrants 14 days in prison.
As a barber, and father of three, he found it difficult to continue to pay the backlog in rent when his business slowed. One of his last payments was made in November.
“It happened so quickly, I was not even allowed to call or talk to anyone,” said the inmate. “When I came here, I begged an officer for a call and contacted my wife and explained the situation. I begged her not to tell my children, especially my daughter in high school, because it would devastate her.
“I prayed the whole night because I am the breadwinner for the family and I didn’t know what was going to happen to them. I said ‘God, is this a trial that you are putting me through to make me develop, or is this a way to teach me a lesson? I know you are real, and you have never failed me yet’.”
Call it a Christmas miracle, but by morning the inmate’s prayer had been answered. FFTP’s Prison Ministry team had intervened and paid the non-violent prisoners’ outstanding fines, granting them an early release.
“People ask how I am so lucky, but I know God is powerful. I know He answered my prayer by sending angels this morning,” said the inmate. “I know that God was going to take care of me. Water came to my eyes this morning in the chapel when the gentlemen from Food For The Poor said, that we must give the gift of forgiveness to our enemies and that is what I plan to do.”
On December 16, nine non-violent prisoners were offered second chances when they were released from three prisons in Guyana. One of the prisoners celebrated his 42nd birthday the same day he was unexpectedly released from prison.
“I am very thankful and grateful to Food For The Poor,” said the inmate, who plans to return to work as a welder. “It is a blessing to me since today is my birthday. I wish you all the best. God bless you all. It was a pleasant surprise to me.”
FFTP said that in developing countries, the destitute sometimes have no way to feed their families other than to steal food. The consequence often is imprisonment, without first appearing before a judge, or receiving a prison sentence.
Prison conditions are drastically worse in developing countries than they are in the United States. Overcrowded prisons are common, and perpetuate the spread of disease and violence. The potential spread of cholera in Haiti’s prisons remains a concern.
Twice a year – during the Christmas and Easter seasons – it is the FFTP tradition to help release non-violent inmates who have been incarcerated due to their inability to pay the required fines for committing minor offenses.
Since the inception of FFTP’s Prison Ministry Programme in 1998, the charity has assisted in freeing, training and reintroducing prisoners back into the community as productive citizens.
The organization does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America.
This inter-denominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.
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