A Christian missionary revealed inhumane living conditions that hundreds of men face in a prison in Haiti. She knew this after visiting a jail in Haiti.
Around 50-60 people are packed in small jail cells. They sleep on the floor and there is one five-gallon bucket at the end of the room for all of them to go to the bathroom in. Only those with family members who can send food can eat regularly.
American missionary Kate Bartow recently visited the prison in Jérémie, Haiti, for the first time and secretly took pictures of the prison.
Seeing the sad state of conditions in the prison, it is not surprising that the authorities prefer to severely restrict access to that area. The absolute urgency expressed by the prisoners is beyond human imagination. They ask for even the smallest things, such as someone to talk to or read their note or accept the trade they had made.
«This is the worst thing I have ever seen»
Bartow said, “I’ve seen a lot,” “But this is the worst I’ve ever seen.” during an interview with Faithwire.
Clearly, the experience was still fresh in her mind after returning to the United States a few hours before the interview.
Bartow talked about a teenage boy she met in prison. He was one of the street children, those who are so affected by poverty that they simply hang out in the streets all day hoping to collect some pieces of food or pennies. He had been imprisoned, at the age of 15, allegedly for street fights.
But it is difficult to know who really deserves to be in prison and who doesn´t. When asked about the justice system, Bartow simply responded “it’s Haiti. So, there isn’t one.”
Corruption runs rampant in all aspects of Haitian life. If you want someone in prison, you can probably pay to make that happen. It is one of the main reasons why the country cannot escape poverty control, because a massive revision and the elimination of corruption would be needed, which is clearly not an easy task, or has already been done.
“You walk in, and there are these cells and they’re just packed in there,” Bartow explained. “It’s hot, there’s no ventilation, so they’re just standing there in their underwear because no wind is blowing in. What they’re being fed is worse than dog food… and they’re desperate.”
“You’re walking and arms and hands are reaching out. They’re pressing their faces against the bars to try and get your attention. They’re begging you for a phone call or just to talk to you. They gave me all these letters for me to read. Their stories. I got this pile of little notes scratched out on cigarette packs and little pieces of paper and wrappers, just saying what they need and what happened to them. They don’t know if I can do anything, but it was their only semblance of hope, that I had (their letter) in my hand. I said ‘I’m not God… I’ll do what I can.’ And they said ‘it doesn’t matter, just take it.’”
To those imprisoned, “God values them in the same way”
Bartow explained how she told the prisoners that despite the fact that some are guilty, God values them in the same way. “If we get real with ourselves, we’ve done, in our lifetimes, we’ve done a lot of things that if we were in Haiti, or the wrong person saw us — that could’ve been us (in prison).”
Bartow is now looking to help those who are truly forgotten by society. Haiti is already a country that suffers immensely, so the incarcerated ones suffer much more.
“My goal is to provide the prisoners with one good meal a week. That’s pretty minimal. The eventual goal is finding 380 people who would give $2 a week and that would provide them with just one meal a week. I want to be selling their purses and wallets (that they make in prison),” Bartow explained. “That’s something that really moved me, that they were still creating. I feel when we stop creating is when we are completely hopeless. They’re still creating because they’re still grasping on to that hope.”
“I’m gonna pray for you”
And despite the conditions, some trapped inside this place of hell on earth still managed to look outside of themselves.
“Something that really moved me was as I was leaving, this guy got up and said “hey, I’m gonna pray for you,” Kate said, holding back tears. “That’ll get you.”
Bartow is linked to the small western town of Jérémie since her family has been doing missions there since she was a little girl. His father, Bryan Bartow, has been going to Haiti for missionary work for a long time.