Food For The Poor Releases Nonviolent Prisoners for Easter’s Holy Week
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (April 1, 2015) – To prepare for Easter’s Holy Week, Food For The Poor donors offered second chances to 56 nonviolent prisoners in Jamaica (20), Honduras (16), Haiti (15), and Guyana (5). These prisoners, who were jailed because of their inability to pay small fines, are now able to celebrate the resurrection of Christ with their families.
“As the released inmates move from the darkness into the light, we pray they will recognize that God is merciful, and He is a God of second chances,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “You will open the eyes of the blind and set free those who sit in dark prisons…” (Isaiah 42:7, GNT).
On March 19 in Haiti, a Food For The Poor mission group entered the Cap-Haitien barracks to pay the fines of 15 nonviolent offenders.
“We have all heard of Third-World prisons, but seeing one is another experience altogether,” said Jim Christie, a Business Development Manager at Performance Services. “There were faces pressed against the cell bars and heavy metal mesh fencing with several arms and hands sticking out of small holes in the fencing. The cell was so dense with the faces and bodies pressing against the bars that you could not see light coming through from behind the prisoners.”
“Our prison ministry program included washing the feet of the prisoners, providing them a new pair of shoes through Samaritan’s Feet, praying over them for God’s graces, and then paying for their release back into society. The entire experience was overwhelming. The lack of hope in these prisoners’ eyes was extremely disturbing,” said Christie.
The Performance Services group paid the $327 fine to release a 13-year-old who broke a car window, while throwing stones with friends. The money had been raised through T-shirt sales before the mission trip.
The young man, who had been incarcerated for more than a month, said, “My parents are unable to come to my aid. That’s why I am so sad. But in the cell of the prison, I learned how to pray. I ask you to pray for me, my family, my friends, especially those who were in the same cell.”
In Guyana, another young prisoner was among the five inmates who were released on March 23 from Georgetown Prison and Timehri Prison.
The 17-year-old, a first-time offender who served 20 days of his six-week sentence for stealing a duck, was released after his fines were paid by Food For The Poor donors. The grateful young man told Food For The Poor-Guyana Chairman Paul Chan-a-Sue that he looks forward to being reunited with his mother and younger sisters.
Mahfood, who spoke to the freed prisoners by phone, cautioned and challenged them to never return to prison. The newly released prisoners were provided travel money and care packages.
A total of 20 inmates were released from several prisons and police stations in Jamaica on March 25 and 26. Many of the misdemeanors included traffic offenses and larceny.
The sole female inmate to be released in Jamaica was from Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Center.
“I was seated outside and a superintendent came up to me and said I should go in the chapel, so I obeyed her orders. Oh Jesus, I can’t tell you just how happy I was to hear my name, I had no idea that I would receive my freedom. I was trembling,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “When I heard my name I thought I was just getting a gift, then it was announced that Food For The Poor was paying my fine to leave the institution. I couldn’t even speak. I couldn’t move from my seat. I thank you all for this gift.”
“I want you to remember that everything in life works for your good once you have God as the center of your life,” said David Mair, Food For The Poor-Jamaica Executive Director, to inmates at St. Catherine Adult Correctional Center. “You should thank Him for this blessing you have received. I have worked for 18 years in corporate Jamaica, but in the eight months I have been at Food For The Poor, I have learned so much more as it relates to serving others. I consider Food For The Poor a strong arm for the Lord in this regard. To the inmates, I encourage you to help somebody just as you have been helped.”
While in prison, one inmate declined to receive the money his family sent to pay his fine, so his brother could receive medical treatment.
“I have a younger brother who is 14 years old,” said the 21-year-old, who was sentenced to 30 days for larceny. “While in prison, my mother told me that he was getting sick because of issues with asthma but she didn’t have the money to get him treatment. I love my brother dearly so I figured it was best for me to stay in prison and learn from my mistakes. It was better for me to live here for a while than to see my brother get severely sick, so I gave my mother the money to take care of his medical fees.”
When he learned that Food For The Poor was giving him a second chance, he said, “I appreciate this so much. I am really thankful for this assistance and I am really excited about going home to see my brother and mother.”
Since the inception of Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program in Jamaica in 1998, the charity has assisted in freeing, training and reintroducing prisoners back into the community. 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.
The final Easter prison release came on March 27 in Honduras. Sixteen prisoners wrote notes of gratitude to Food For The Poor donors, reflecting on past decisions, and the circumstances that led to their imprisonment.
Twice a year – during the week of Christmas and during Easter’s Holy Week – the Food For The Poor Prison Ministry Program releases inmates who have committed minor offenses. The ministry is based on the scripture, “…I was in prison and you visited me…,” (Matthew 25: 31-46).
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, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor 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.
Jennifer Leigh Oates
Food For The Poor
Public Relations Associate
954-427-2222 x 6054