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Portsmouth nonprofit provides early Father's Day for inmates to restore family connection before release

Some men got to spend quality time with their families as part of a re-entry program.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, safety measures at some Hampton Roads prisons are still in effect, including some families not able to visit their loved ones.  

However, a non-profit is making it possible for some incarcerated fathers to spend an early Father’s Day dinner and dance with their children. 

Men Alleviating Negativity Foundation, an organization geared towards decreasing recidivism, hosted their third annual Father and Family Day Dance for some Portsmouth City Jail inmates on Sunday. 

Organizers said five men, who are part of the re-entry program, have less than one year remaining in jail, and that means they are a few months away from a second chance at becoming better fathers, husbands and members of society.

“That’s the most important thing: the children [and] your family," said Anthony Knight, who is incarcerated. 

Knight is one of the men who got the opportunity to spend time with his children during the event. 

“It means a great deal because you know now with COVID and everything, you don’t really get to see them except on the screen, maybe sometimes. And to actually be in their company, you actually realize what you miss," he said. 

Knight volunteered for the program through the Portsmouth Sheriff's Office and the M.A.N. Foundation. 

“That's aimed at helping incarcerated individuals or recently released citizens, their families and children. Our main aim is to keep connectivity between the families, as well as reduce recidivism," said Dr. Velvet Smith, board chairman of the M.A.N. Foundation. 

Organizers shared what the men must do to be a part of the program.

“They have to participate in a parenting class. Once they fulfill that parenting class obligation, they also have to have good behavior, and then they are able to come and participate," said Dr. Jaclyn Walker, the foundation's executive director. 

Knight said the program helped change his mindset to stay out of jail upon release. 

“We made the mistakes, and we realize that's not what we want to be. That's not who we are, and the cycle just continues. And it's about time we change that cycle," he said. 

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