Food For The Poor Organizes 17th Annual Prisoner Releases
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2015) – “I am so thankful for this opportunity that you have given me, to be once again with my loved ones,” said Nancy, a former Honduran inmate. She was one of 120 freed from prisons in time for Christmas in four countries by the international relief and development organization Food For The Poor. “Above all, thank you for believing in me enough to return me to society.”
The 26-year-old mother of two spent nearly a year in the female section of a prison in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, not just any prison, but one of Honduras’ toughest. Nancy would have been freed a lot sooner, but because she did not have the money to pay the required fine for her offense that she admits was wrong, she was locked up with hardened female prisoners.
Thanks to Food For The Poor, 120 nonviolent offenders, many who had been incarcerated for several years because of their inability to pay their country’s required fines, were freed from their prisons – seven in Guyana, 76 in Haiti, 19 in Honduras and 18 in Jamaica.
The one woman and six men who were freed from Guyana’s prisons expressed deep gratitude that they were not forgotten this Christmas, especially Maria whose despondent thoughts were quickly becoming too much for her to handle.
“Thank you so much for what you’ve done for me. I was starting to feel frustrated and was thinking about committing suicide,” said Maria. “I feel so blessed, thank you and I thank God.”
Many of the men were not ashamed to admit that the conditions in Guyana’s prisons aren’t easy.
“Prison is very hard! You have to have patience in order to make it in there. After two months, I was starting to crack,” said Maniram. “I want to thank you for what you’ve done for me too. I’ll never go back in that place.”
Since the inception of Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program in 1998, the charity has assisted in freeing, training and reintroducing nonviolent prisoners back into their communities as productive citizens.
“The vast majority of the prisons in Latin American and the Caribbean are notoriously overcrowded for a wide variety of reasons, they are far worse than the prisons are here in the United States, where disease and violence are rampant. There also are health and hygiene concerns,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “Let me be clear, we are not condoning bad behavior, but many of these people are sent away to prison for stealing to buy food to feed themselves and their families. Putting these people who have committed nonviolent crimes in the same cells with rapists, murderers and hard-core criminals isn’t the answer.”
For the first time in Food For The Poor’s 17-year history of its Prison Ministry Program, Haiti has allowed nonviolent offenders locked up in the Prison Civile de Port-au-Prince to have their fines paid by the charity. Twelve men have been given a second chance after being liberated from the country’s national prison that has a hellish reputation, one that was made known to the world after hundreds of prisoners escaped their cells after the 2010 earthquake.
With overwhelming emotion, one newly released inmate who did not want to give his name, had this to say, “I would like to thank the Lord for all his blessings. This gesture truly showed me that we are all children of the Lord.”
Immediately upon release from the Port-au-Prince prison, the former inmates were taken to Food For The Poor-Haiti’s headquarters where they met with Executive Director Bishop Oge Beauvoir for spiritual encouragement, a hot meal and medical care. They also met with social workers who will help them to settle back into society.
Food For The Poor also paid the fines of nonviolent inmates in the northern part of the Caribbean country. Forty men were freed in Cap-Haitien, and another 24 in Fort-Liberté. The Food For The Poor staff there provided the men with food, supplies and words of wisdom, advising them to choose better paths for their future, and to keep the Lord at the center of their daily lives.
The island nation of Jamaica released 18 of its nonviolent prisoners from several correctional sites, the majority of whom were freed from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town. Each newly released person was escorted from their cell to a room, and later to the chapel where they were each greeted by Food For The Poor staff. They also received words of advice, a hot meal and personal care supplies.
“It is a Food For The Poor tradition to release nonviolent inmates twice a year, during the Easter and Christmas season. The 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). We do this because we’re following Jesus’ example in the Gospels – it is the right thing to do,” said Mahfood.
Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program is changing lives, which was summed up beautifully by Nancy, who says former inmates like her are being blessed by the kindness of strangers.
“Your work is admirable, it is bringing help to people who don’t have funds and is giving them an opportunity to have a life outside of these walls,” said Nancy. “Thank you for helping me Food For The Poor. My goal in life is to keep moving ahead by working hard at my job to provide for my children. I hope that Christmas and New Year’s bring your organization prosperity, and that all of your projects are successful. Once again I am so grateful.”
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, Fla. 33073. Please include reference number “SC# 74122” to ensure your donation is correctly routed.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational 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.For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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