Twenty-two inmates of the island’s prisons are now back with their families, having secured early release through the generosity of donors of the international relief and development organisation, Food For The Poor.
For more than 18 years, Food For The Poor has secured the release of non-violent offenders in Jamaica by paying their fines at Christmas and Easter. This act of kindness is also done for inmates in Guyana, Haiti, and Honduras.
Every year, poor Jamaicans are imprisoned for minor, non-violent offences because of their inability to pay their court fines, even if the amounts they are fined are minimal.
The prayers of a former inmate in the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre were answered when he was told that he would be freed late last year after being unable to pay his fine. Most of his money had been used to take care of his sick mother.
“It’s always just me and my mother. When I actually realised that I was going to be locked up, I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me but I prayed a lot and asked God to just keep me out of trouble and keep me sane so I could one day see my mother again,” said the non-violent offender.
According to the former inmate, Food For The Poor’s kindness in paying his fine has renewed his belief and hope in God.
“Food For The Poor coming to pay my fine today so that I can go home to my mother proves to me that God is real,” added the inmate.
Another former inmate broke down in tears when her name was announced as one of the persons whose fines had been paid by the charity.
“When I heard my name, I thought I was being asked to do an item on the programme. Little did I know it was much more than that. When the announcement was made the tears just started to flow, and I couldn’t stop crying,” she said.
David Mair, executive director of Food For The Poor Jamaica, said the prison release tradition is one that the organisation intends to continue because of the impact it has on inmates.