Food For The Poor Organizes Prisoner Releases for Nonviolent offenders in Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and Honduras
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 1, 2009) –In developing countries, such as Haiti, a person is imprisoned 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.
During a recent prison visit in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, guests with Food For The Poor were assaulted by awful odors and the constant drumming of human voices. The prisoners could hear the sound of visitors in the corridor. Hands, arms, and heads were reaching through the bars. The prison cells measure 16-by-16 feet, and each is crammed with more than 30 men. Desperately dark eyes peer out of the darkness and into the light pleading silently for help.
“One prisoner who spoke English read my nametag and called out to me,” said Jim McDaniel, as he recounted a recent prison visit with Food For The Poor. “Curious, I walked over to his cell. As he pushed a note into my hand the man said, ‘My name is Jean Rubens – remember me.’”
“I was surprised he did not ask for anything material, not even a glass of water – he only wanted desperately for someone on the outside to remember him,” said McDaniel. “Rubens only wanted a connection with my soul, to be a brother in Christ, to be prayed for – to not be forgotten.”
In November, parishioners from Church of the Nativity, Burke, Va. and St. Michael Church, Canfield, Ohio, traveled to Haiti with Food For The Poor to feed the hungry, bring water to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned and to follow the Gospel call to serve the poor.
The visit was based on the scripture, “When was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you,” (Matthew 25: 31-46).
The group distributed shoes and warm meals to approximately 563 inmates, and Food For The Poor arranged the release of four young men who had committed nonviolent crimes. Their feet were washed, and they were given new shoes, a little money, and walked outside the prison gate.
“And while 20 of us walked literally through the Gospel in this poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, all of our people [at Church of the Nativity, St. Michael’s, and Food For The Poor staff], through prayer, were walking right along with us,” said McDaniel. “We truly saw Christ in the eyes of the poor.”
In anticipation of Christmas, Food For The Poor will release more prisoners who have committed nonviolent offenses in Haiti, Jamaica, Guyana, and Honduras. They were incarcerated due to their inability to pay the required fines. Approximately 75 prisoners will be released in these countries in time to spend Christmas with their families.
“The people are crying out to God,” said Robin Mahfood, Food For The Poor’s CEO/President. “There are large numbers of desperate people who were locked in jail, and have been forgotten because they tried to feed their families. Uniting families on this Holy Day is a very important part of Food For The Poor’s ministry.”
Since the inception of Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program in 2000, Food For The Poor has assisted in freeing, training and reintroducing approximately 800 persons into the community as productive citizens. The released prisoners were incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, such as stealing food. Food For The Poor works with the prisoners before and after they are released to ensure they will not be repeat offenders.
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.
Twice a year – during the Christmas and Easter seasons – the Food For The Poor Prison Ministry Program releases inmates who have committed minor offenses.
Food For The Poor, the 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.
Jennifer Leigh Oates
(954) 427-2222 x 6054