(L to R) Sandra Ramsey and a prison guard at Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Jamaica release an inmate in time to spend Christmas with his family.
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 18, 2013) – Thirty-three prisoners received a second chance from Food For The Poor at St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, Jamaica, on Dec. 13. Only after the inmates were escorted from their cells to the center’s Chapel did they believe that generous Food For The Poor donors had paid the fines for their nonviolent offenses, and that they would be released in time to spend Christmas with their families.
In addition to releasing a total of 37 inmates from three prisons in Jamaica, Food For The Poor also will release prisoners in Guyana (15), Haiti (10) and Honduras (22) in time for them to spend Christmas with their families.
At the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre’s newly refurbished chapel, the inmates were greeted by The Very Reverend Burchell McPherson, Bishop of Montego Bay, Jamaica; Father Richard Martin, pastor at Church of the Nativity, in Burke, Va.; Jevene Bent, Jamaica’s Commissioner of Corrections; and Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor.
“We pray the released inmates will recognize that God is merciful, and He is a God of second chances,” said Mahfood.
During the dedication of the chapel, the inmates received words of advice from the distinguished guests. Bent encouraged the inmates to use their experience in prison to influence someone to become a better person, and cautioned them never to return and lose their freedom again.
“I was thankful Food For The Poor intervened to release the men and women who could not afford to pay their meager fines,” said Bishop McPherson.
“I see the real stars in front of me right now,” said Fr. Martin, to the inmates at St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre. “Stars give light and you have given me that light. I feel like I am living out the scriptures today as outlined in Mathew 25. You have a great future ahead and you can shine even brighter than you are already doing.”
Food For The Poor’s 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).
“I have been commissioner for just under six months now and everywhere I go, every penal institution I visit, all I hear is Food For The Poor,” said Bent. “We have had many partners over the years but Food For The Poor stands out not only in terms of material provision to the prisons and inmates but also the spiritual component that you bring. Food For The Poor, may God continue to bless you and expand your boundaries.”
In developing countries, the destitute sometimes have no way to feed their families other than to steal food. The consequence often is imprisonment 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.
“Prison conditions and poverty are drastically worse in developing countries than they are in the United States,” said Mahfood. “Overcrowded prisons are common, and perpetuate the spread of disease and violence.”
Twice a year – during the Christmas and Easter seasons – it is a Food For The Poor tradition to release nonviolent inmates who have been incarcerated due to their inability to pay the required fines for committing minor offenses.
Since the inception of Food For The Poor’s Prison Ministry Program in 1998, the charity has assisted in freeing, training and reintroducing prisoners back into the community as productive citizens.
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.