Home for Christmas: ‘Happy to Get a Second Chance’ – FFTP Pays Fines of 105 Nonviolent Offenders
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2021) A total of 105 nonviolent prisoners will be home for Christmas, thanks to Food For The Poor and the generous donors who support the charity’s prison ministry.
For more than two decades, FFTP has honored the tradition of securing the release of nonviolent offenders in Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, and Jamaica by paying their accumulated fines twice a year, at Christmas and Easter.
Many were arrested for stealing to feed their families or for something that would be considered a minor offense and later held in some of the most notorious prisons throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, unable to pay the fines for their release.
In Jamaica, nine nonviolent offenders were released from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre. All the inmates, except one, were able to leave the prison last Wednesday. The other inmate will leave on Christmas Eve.
One of the released inmates, a father of two children, 4-years-old and 6 months, said he looks forward to reuniting with his family.
“The first thing I am going to do is hug and kiss my children because I have missed them,” he said.
With trembling hands and a low voice, he said, “I feel so happy to be going home, happy to get a second chance.”
While he regrets his crimes, he said he learned his lesson.
“I broke into a shop with the plan to take some tools to sell and got caught,” he said. “I felt so bad because I have been warned many times to just be humble and in time, things will get better, but this experience has really taught me a lot, so I regret it, but it has helped me to grow.”
In Haiti, Food For The Poor has paid so far for the fines of 92 nonviolent offenders from eight prisons across the country. The team there will continue to release prisoners up until Christmas Day.
Poverty, civil unrest, and gang violence are taking a toll on the Caribbean nation, making day-to-day living nearly impossible for the destitute.
Fritznel, 22, a married father of two children spent two years in a Hinche prison for stealing school supplies. “I needed to prepare my children for school, so a group of friends and I went to steal some school supplies at night,” he said.
Tirogene, 32, has a wife and two children. In March, he stole two bags of beans so he could feed his family. He was arrested and spent nearly nine months in prison until FFTP paid his fine.
In Guyana, FFTP paid the fines of two prisoners who expressed gratitude to the charity for “an unexpected and good surprise” and the opportunity to reunite with their families.
At a ceremony for the inmates’ release, FFTP Guyana CEO Kent Vincent offered words of encouragement.
“Make the best of your lives and extend to others the kindness gift that was granted you, and always believe in the word of God,” Vincent said.
Food hampers including lunch, loaves of bread, personal care items and a Bible were given to the inmates as well as transportation to get home.
In Honduras, FFTP and its country partner CEPUDO paid the fines of two prisoners.
CEPUDO Imports Director Carmen E. Huezo said unemployment, and a lack of love and family values led the two men to commit their crimes.
“It’s pure survival out here,” Huezo said in a phone interview. “There is a lack of opportunities. There are no jobs.”
Yoni, 26, was arrested for stealing items from a hardware store. He spent three years in prison at the Centro Penitenciario de Comayagua. FFTP and CEPUDO paid the fine of $525 for his release.
In a handwritten letter, he expressed his gratitude.
“This pencil and paper are to first thank God, Food For The Poor, and CEPUDO for giving me the opportunity to reunite with my family, especially with my lovely son,” Yoni said. “Thank you for listening to my prayers and for this miracle of life.”
FFTP President/CEO Ed Raine said the nonviolent offenders who were released are receiving a second chance for Christmas.
“This is a priceless gift made possible by our generous donors. Our God is a God of second chances,” Raine said. “We don’t condone the crimes of these offenders, but we do believe that mercy should be shown to those who have been incarcerated simply because they cannot pay accumulated fines for what is often petty theft.”
To support Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program, checks payable to Food For The Poor can be mailed to 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073. Please include reference number “SC# 74122” to ensure your donation is correctly routed, or make an online donation at www.FoodForThePoor.org/prisoners.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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