Caribbean Nationals Freed from Prison in time for Christmas Holidays

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Many of those released had been arrested for stealing to feed their families or for something that would be considered a minor offense, Food for the Poor said. (Getty image)

After Food For the Poor Pays Fines of 79 Nonviolent Offenders

FLORIDA, CMC – Food For the Poor, one of the largest US-based international relief and development organisations, said it has paid the fines of 79 nonviolent offenders for Christmas who were being held “in some of the most notorious prisons throughout the Caribbean and Latin America”.

In a statement, the organisation said that many of thos released had been arrested for stealing to feed their families or for something that would be considered a minor offense.

“For more than two decades, Food For The Poor has honoured the tradition of freeing nonviolent offenders from prisons in Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica by paying their fines in time for Christmas.

“In Haiti, the road to desperation is being led by poverty, civil unrest and gang violence. Near-daily protests are taking a toll on the 11 million people in the Caribbean nation, making day-to-day living nearly impossible for the destitute,” the organisation said in its statement.

It said that it has paid the fines of 50 men, two teens and one woman in Haiti.

“All were arrested and sent to prison for stealing. Most were arrested for taking a cow, a pig or in the case of 14-year-old Jerry, a goat. Jerry, from Ouanaminthe, said his mother died and his father abandoned him so he became a shoeshine boy to make money. He admitted he took the goat to sell, but the teen was arrested and locked up with hardened criminals for two months before Food For The Poor learned about his situation and paid his fine.”

In Jamaica, four inmates were released from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, including a 49-year-old bus conductor.

Food For the Poor said he spent more than a month in the Spanish Town prison for traffic violations, such as not wearing his uniform or his badge. He could not afford to pay the fines, which were approximately $229, so he was arrested.

In Guyana, Food For The Poor paid the fines of seven nonviolent offenders who were sent to prison for simple larceny or minor traffic offenses. David, one of the seven, was fined $91, money neither he nor his family had. He spent six months in Timehri Prison.

“This year, 79 nonviolent prisoners have been set free for the Christmas holiday, thanks to generous and compassionate donors who support the charity’s prison ministry,” said Food For the Poor president and chief executive officer, Robin Mahfood.

“We are not here to condone or to pass judgment on anyone who was arrested and sent to prison for a nonviolent offense. We believe in God’s mercy and second chances, because second chances are an opportunity to correct the wrong and to choose a better path in life. It is truly our prayer that each one of those released this Christmas will do exactly that.”

Each newly freed person was greeted by Food For The Poor staff who prayed with them. Each person also received a copy of the Bible, a meal, personal care items and traveling money. – CMC

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