Hope of a Second Chance, a Priceless Gift for Christmas: FFTP Pays the Fines of 212 Nonviolent Offenders During Turbulent Times

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2020) During times of crisis or natural disaster, people typically rally together for the common good. But there is one segment of the population that is often overlooked or even forgotten.

Food For The Poor paid the fines of 212 nonviolent offenders in Haiti, Jamaica and Guyana.

In Haiti, the ongoing pandemic is making it hard for an already struggling nation. For those who spent years in crowded prisons because of an inability to pay fines for nonviolent crimes for trying to feed and care for their families, the dream of liberation is now a reality.

Kerline, 31, a married mother of two from Bon Repos, earned a living working as a vendor in the local market. One day she didn’t have money to buy food to feed her children, so she stole three bags of beans from a store. That act of desperation ended up costing her freedom for more than two years in Cabaret women’s prison because no one had the money to pay her fine.

Jonathon, 25, from Croix-des-Bouquets, a married father of three, spent three years in prison for stealing a goat. Jackson, 39, from Saint-Marc, who’s also married and a father of four, is a cabinet maker by trade. He said he was arrested for stealing wood to make furniture to sell so that he could earn money to feed his family. He spent more than four years behind bars until Food For The Poor paid his fine.

Kendy, 47, from Mirebalais, a farmer by trade, is a husband and father of four. He was arrested and locked up with murderers and other violent offenders for nearly four years. He said he regrets his actions, which were wrong, but that he did it for the right reasons.

"I was having some financial issues and the rent on my house was past due," Kendy said. "I didn’t have anyone to help me, so I stole a cow to pay the rent. I am really sorry for what I did, and I am grateful to Food For The Poor for helping me get out of jail."

The charity paid the fines for 200 nonviolent offenders in Haiti, 180 men and 20 women from 13 prisons across the country. Each person received a meal, a 100-pound bag of rice and money for traveling expenses to get home.

"Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry began 22 years ago with paying the fines of nonviolent offenders twice a year, at Easter and Christmas, but this year has been especially challenging because of the coronavirus and the horrific hurricanes in Central America," Food For The Poor President/CEO said Ed Raine. "But thanks to our very compassionate donors we were blessed to continue this annual tradition and provide hundreds of people with the priceless gift of a second chance for Christmas."

In Jamaica, nine nonviolent offenders were released from their prisons, including seven men from St. Catherine Adult Correctional Center, one woman from the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre for Women and one man from the Towers Street Adult Correctional Centre. Each newly freed person received personal care items and traveling money to return home.

The traditional gathering for a meal and personal greetings from the Food For The Poor-Jamaica staff was canceled due to the coronavirus.

In Guyana, Food For The Poor paid the fine of Sheneeza, 25, who spent six months in prison for a minor offense. She didn’t have the money for the fine nor did her family. Even though Sheneeza and the two men freed from their prisons wore face masks while receiving their gift bags due to the pandemic, their expressions of joy were obvious.

The Food For The Poor-Guyana staff presented each newly freed person with a copy of the Bible, a loaf of bread, a bag of personal care items, clothes and traveling money to return home to their families for the holidays.

In November, as the world focused on the heart-breaking devastation from Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America, not much was said about the impact these storms had on the prison population in these countries.

In Honduras, Food For The Poor partner CEPUDO confirmed that several prisons were damaged but could not say whether any inmates died. At the El Progreso Prison in northern Honduras, a wall collapsed, and waist-deep water flooded the facility. Nearly 600 inmates had to be evacuated. As a result, officials in the Central American country canceled Food For The Poor’s annual Christmas release of nonviolent offenders. But that did not stop the charity from giving back.

"Due to the ongoing crisis in Honduras, the best we could do this year was to provide our in-country partner with the means to offer some assistance of relief by supplying these men and women in prison with much-needed personal care items and food," Raine said. "We want to thank everyone who continues to donate their support for this ministry, especially in Honduras during this difficult time."

Hundreds of bags containing soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper were donated along with a truckload of canned meats, beans and rice. Zobeida Mendoza, Coordinator of the Prison Ministry in Honduras, is grateful for the help. She urges continued prayer for those in prison. The suffering caused by the back-to-back hurricanes is magnified for inmates in cells without electricity who are tasked with removing mud and debris.

"When we visit the prisons, we try to offer hope to our brothers and sisters by listening," Mendoza said. "Many of the women were very distressed by not knowing anything about what happened to their relatives. A request was made to the authorities to facilitate communication with their families. We received telephone numbers and were able to make some contacts. We are happy to be able to share information about their families and offer some emotional relief."

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 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.

Wanda Wright

Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079