Nonprofit brings families and their incarcerated loved ones together with free holiday portraits

Flashpoint
December 06, 2018 - 4:00 am
KYW Newsradio's community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg interviews representatives from The Center for Returning Citizens on its latest portrait project.

KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia nonprofit that works with ex-offenders has teamed up with photographers to provide free holiday portraits for families with loved ones who are incarcerated. 

"When you are incarcerated, you miss so many family memories," said J. Jondhi Harel, founder of The Center for Returning Citizens, which helps formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrate into society. This weekend, the organization will transform its office into a photo studio where families will come to take portraits.

"And a portrait is a frozen moment in time — it's a memory that can be shared and you'll always have it," he said.

Photographers Kyle Cassidy and Hadiyah Gaiters came up with the idea to "capture them in their true essence and send it to their loved one."

"But also hopefully at the end of the day, make the world a better place than it was when we started out," echoed Cassidy.

The duo will print two copies of the photo — one for the family and one to mail. 

For individuals within Pennsylvania state prisons, a new mail policy in place dictates that the photos will be sent to Florida for scanning, and a copy will be sent to their loved ones. The original portrait will be destroyed within 60 days.

"It really destroys the family feeling," Harel added.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is facing fire for the new mail policy. The ACLU and others already sued the agency over lawyer mail. 

Harel said the new rule is an annoyance, but the portrait project will move forward.  

To sign up for the portraits, visit tcrcphilly.org or call 215-791-0645.

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Listen to the full Flashpoint Extra interview below featuring KYW Newsradio's community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg.