Organization helps to free 256 inmates
Prison overcrowding is a major problem in the Caribbean, often creating a deadly environment for inmates and correctional officers working in these facilities. So, in the spirit of the holy season, Caribbean charity Food For The Poor, headquatered in Coconut Creek, worked this year to free 256 inmates serving sentences for nonviolent crimes across the Caribbean for Easter.
For 18 years, Food For The Poor has been paying the fines of nonviolent offenders, freeing them from their prisons twice a year. Thanks to the generosity of the charity’s donors, four men were freed in Guyana, 232 men and women in Haiti, 11 men in Honduras and nine men in Jamaica.
“These are being filled to the max with people who are committing petty offenses,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “I understand if a person commits a crime, they must face the consequences of their actions, but the majority of these first-time offenders are being locked up with hardcore criminals for weeks, months and even years at a time because they cannot afford to pay the minimal fines for their freedom.”
One such inmate, Rajesh Guyana, was sick and suffering from tuberculosis when he was sentenced to four months in prison. But Rajesh and three other men were finally released from the Georgetown prison after Food For The Poor paid their fines for Holy Week. In Rajesh’s case, the charity also provided treatment for his tuberculosis, which he was extremely grateful to receive.
“Thank you very much for your gift of freedom,” said Rajesh, in a phone call with Mahfood. “I feel so much better now and I want to thank you for the treatment I received while in prison.”
Each of the four men were given a Holy Bible, a change of clothes, caps, personal care items, food and a monetary gift as they were released from prison.
In Jamaica, nonviolent prisoners were released from Hunts Bay Police Station, and Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston, and 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 encouragement, a hot meal and personal care items.
“We serve a God who is very merciful,” said Mahfood. “We can only pray that each prisoner who was released will recognize that our Lord is a God of second chances.”