A few years ago, one of our young men from our church got himself into a bit of trouble doing something that is just typical teenage folly, but that unfortunately landed him in prison. He was held for three months in the Petit Goave prison, along with 70 other men sharing his cell where hygiene, food and sanitation were non-existent. Our church members visited often, which spurred in us to begin a prison ministry to visit the prisoners, bring them food, clothing and share songs and the Scriptures with them. This ministry has been very impacting. In one of our visits, it became clear that God was calling us to do more.
Often times, prisoners in Haiti are not hard criminals, but rather have landed there for petty crimes such as stealing a piece of bread or getting into a fight with a neighbor. But because of the lack of justice, many of them, even when wrongfully accused, end up spending long periods of time with little hope of release in prison. Petit Goave holds the two nearest prisons to Grand-Goave, one for adult men and one for women and minors. The adult male prison hosts just two cells, maybe measuring 12 x 12 ft and can have up to 80 men per cell - no beds, no toilet, no space, no fresh air. The youth & female prison is a much smaller two-cell prison each measuring 8x5 ft and can hold up to 12 prisoners each with youth as young as 12 years old.
In response to this call to do more, we opened a Judicial Assistance Office just a block from and facing the adult male prison in April 2016. Our mandate is to offer pro bono legal assistance to those who have been wrongfully imprisoned or those serving exaggerated time for petty crimes. Our office space includes offices for a secretary/ receptionist, head lawyer/ coordinator and a team of four lawyers. The office is run by Mr. Fadael, a lawyer that has been in practice for a number of years, had experience in legal aid previously serving with US Aid, and has been the lawyer for Haiti ARISE for the past 10 years. As of spring 2017, we have aided 152 individuals, winning 72 their freedom, and are currently fighting for 80 more cases.
This project is being sponsored by Clothing For A Cause.