A colleague of mine in Cuba who directs a ministry that reaches over 6,000 prisoners in twelve prisons in central Cuba sent me a report this week that included the following news (which I had not heard through any of the regular Cuba media outlets I read):
“More than 3,000 pardons were given before the end of December. If I’m not mistaken, in Cuba no one has been pardoned since 1956. Life sentences were reduced to 20 years, so everyone serving life but who has been jailed for more than 20 years will have their case reviewed and they may be set free if they meet certain conditions.
“They are changing the prison system so that people are jailed less time and so that more prisoners be allowed to serve their time through community service. One of the tangible results of these changes is that the majority of the prisoners we ministered to who were in Granma were freed. They had become believers, and many other prisoners in other provinces, who had also become Christians, qualified for pardons due to their good behavior.” [my translation]
Cuba is, indeed, changing. And by Cuban standards, at a quick pace. More changes can be expected for 2012, especially with the Pope’s visit in March. (The Pope’s visit in 1998 was followed by a number of changes, and I expect that his visit this year also comes with some concessions on the part of the Cuban government.)