‘This is my last time in prison’: Food For The Poor secures Freedom for 152 prisoners

The gift of freedom was delivered to 152 non-violent prisoners this Holy Week as Food For The Poor continued its longstanding tradition.

The organisation paid the fines of the inmates to secure their release in four countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, which includes 26 persons from Jamaica.

Through the Prison Ministry Programme, Food For The Poor pays the fines of inmates who have committed minor, non-violent offenses. This is done during Easter and Christmas each year. The organisation also provides assistance for the recipients to start profitable businesses so they can be reintroduced to their communities as productive citizens.

In Jamaica, 26 non-violent prisoners were released from the Central Police Station, in Kingston; the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre; and Tamarind Farm, in Spanish Town; the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre in Portmore; and Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre in St Mary.

Each newly released person was greeted by Food For The Poor staff who provided them with critical moral support through positive and encouraging talks. Newly freed and full of hope, the former inmates also were given a meal, personal care items and money for transportation home.

Sandra Ramsey, Prison Ministry Administrator, Food For The Poor-Jamaica, said “Our founder, Ferdinand Mahfood, has always been concerned about inmates and their welfare, so every year during Easter and Christmas, we pay the fines to secure the releases of those who have committed minor offenses. The truth is, we have all made mistakes and we all deserve a second chance.”

In addition to the 26 prisoners released in Jamaica, 126 non-violent prisoners also were released in Haiti, Honduras and Guyana.

One of the inmates released from the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre is a taxi operator from St James. He was arrested in early March for failure to pay outstanding traffic tickets.

He explained that being in prison was difficult; he has a wife and two young children who depend on him for everything.

He said: “I pleaded for more time to come up with the funds to pay for the tickets, but that was denied so I was arrested. I did not get a chance to say goodbye to my spouse and our children. I think that was the most difficult part about being in prison, not knowing how my family would survive. Many nights I went without sleep because I kept thinking about their welfare.

“I am feeling good and overwhelmed at this moment. My children will be so happy to see me and I am looking forward to seeing them. Thanks to Food For The Poor for making this possible for me and the other inmates. This was my first time in prison and it certainly will be the last.”

Two of the nine inmates released from the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre were incarcerated Tuesday, April 11, a day before Food For The Poor’s intervention. One inmate was charged $70,000 or six months in prison for simple larceny.

He explained that he stole some food items from a shop because he was hungry and felt that he had no other alternative.   

“I am feeling really blessed. One night was all I needed to learn my lesson. I prayed to God, asking him to help me out of this mess and God answered my prayer through Food For The Poor. I feel good. I feel happy. I feel blessed,” he said after receiving news of his release.

FEATURED IMAGE: Following the release of non-violent prisoners as part of Food For The Poor-Jamaica’s prison release activities for the Easter season, the men were treated to a meal, personal care items and money to transport them home.