Food For The Poor Organizes Prisoner Releases for Nonviolent Offenders in Jamaica, Guyana and Haiti
Food For The Poor staff distributed meals to prisoners in Cap-Haitien.
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 22, 2010) — In developing countries, the destitute sometimes have no option to feed their families other than to steal food and commit nonviolent offenses. This decision is not made lightly, as they know the consequence is imprisonment without first appearing before a judge, or receiving a prison sentence. Sometimes, by the time they are tried, they have spent years longer in jail than their prison sentence requires.
Inmates in Haiti, for example, are at the mercy of decrepit buildings and disease outbreaks, such as cholera, when prison cells measuring 16-by-16 feet sometimes hold more than 30 men. Through Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program, 28 inmates were released from prisons in Cap-Haitien.
In anticipation of Christmas, Food For The Poor released prisoners who have committed nonviolent offenses in Jamaica, Guyana and Haiti. They were incarcerated due to their inability to pay required fines. Eighty-three prisoners have been released in these countries in time to spend Christmas with their families.
Since the inception of Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program in 2000, more than 880 prisoners have been reintroduced back into the community as productive citizens. Food For The Poor works with the prisoners before and after they are released to ensure they will not be repeat offenders.
At a prison in Guyana, inmates pray in unison as a staff member looks after the group.
In Jamaica, a total of 21 inmates were released from prisons in Mandeville, Spanish Town and St. Catherine.
Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program is based on the scripture, “When was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you,” (Matthew 25: 31-46).
“When you visit a prison, desperate eyes peer out of the dark cells, into the light, pleading silently for help,” said Robin Mahfood, Food For The Poor’s CEO/President. “They want to feel a connection with the outside world, to be a brother in Christ, to be prayed for — and to not be forgotten.”
Twice a year — during the Christmas and Easter seasons — the Food For The Poor Prison Ministry Program releases inmates who have committed minor offenses. Prison authorities have found Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program to be so successful that they have implemented a similar program themselves. Some prisons now offer inmates jobs in the prison where they are held so that they can earn money to pay off their fines.
On Dec. 13, 34 prisoners were released from Guyanese prisons. The ceremony started in prayer and with words of encouragement from Food For The Poor chairmen, directors and representatives. Some of the inmates shed tears as they learned their fines had been paid, and that they would be reunited with their families in time for Christmas. A travel stipend, clothing, shoes, and a meal were provided to the inmates prior to their release.
In Jamaica, a total of 21 inmates were released from prisons in Mandeville, Spanish Town and St. Catherine. One inmate’s story moved not only Food For The Poor staff members but also the prison superintendent who agreed he did not deserve to be incarcerated.
Food For The Poor, the third-largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency 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 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information please visit, www.FoodForThePoor.org.