Caribbean and Latin American Prisons Hot Zones for COVID-19: Food For The Poor Pays Fines, Frees 138 Nonviolent Offenders for Holy Week
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (April 1, 2021) Despite challenges, Food For The Poor is keeping its Holy Week tradition, by paying the fines of 138 nonviolent offenders from prisons in Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica.
In Jamaica, one year into the coronavirus pandemic, there are nearly 39,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Worldometer.info, a website tracking the coronavirus. The FFTP-Jamaica staff was unable to visit prisons, but was able to the pay the fine of one nonviolent offender from the St. Catherine Correctional Centre in Spanish Town.
In Haiti, there are 12,760 reported cases of the virus, but the lingering protests – sparked last year by people upset with the government over inflation, and food and fuel shortages – were the greatest obstacles. There,128 nonviolent prisoners that included 121 men and seven women, were freed from nine different prisons.
FFTP-Haiti staff shared the story of a nonviolent offender who spent 20 years in prison for stealing charcoal and food to feed his wife and six children in Leogane. Now 53, Djo was arrested in 2001 and spent most of his adult life in prison.
Then there’s Enel, 39, who was imprisoned for nine years for stealing items from his neighbor’s garden to feed his three children.
“Our God is a God of second chances,” Food For The Poor President/CEO Ed Raine said. “While we don’t condone stealing, it is not right to confine someone in prison for years because they cannot pay a fine for petty theft, often for stealing food.
“We also are reminded this year that prisons in the countries served by FFTP remain hot zones for the spread of COVID-19. We are extremely grateful to our compassionate donors for helping to give 138 people a second chance this Easter season.”
Honduras is still in recovery mode after Eta and Iota, two powerful Category 4 hurricanes, devastated the region in November. The charity’s in-country partner, CEPUDO, delivered food and personal care items to the El Progreso Prison in northern Honduras, where a wall collapsed, and waist-deep water flooded the facility during the storms.
FFTP also paid the fines of four nonviolent offenders in Honduras. One of the men was 41-year-old Oscar, who learned how to make nets for hammocks and other skills. He credits his time in prison and the prison ministry program for changing his life.
“I started attending church, which has been good for me,” Oscar said. “It has helped me to think about the things I needed to do to improve my life.”
Five men in Guyana were freed from the Lusignan Prison on the east coast of Demerara. With the threat of COVID-19, the newly released men wore face masks while receiving their gift bags. The Food For The Poor-Guyana staff presented each man with a copy of the Bible, a loaf of bread, a bag of personal care items, clothes and travel money to return home to their families.
The Food For The Poor Prison Ministry Program started in 1998 to help nonviolent offenders in parts of the Caribbean and Latin America who could not afford to pay their fines to get out of prison and to make a fresh start.
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 orphaned and abandoned children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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