I used to think I had to make big contributions in life to be happy. I thought whatever I was doing, it had to be big! I enjoyed taking pictures and worked hard to build a successful photography business, documenting exquisite weddings and other notable events. Recently I was asked to be a compound photographer in addition to working in the Re-entry Center.
I’m part of a special committee that focuses on bringing new re-entry programs into prison and was asked to be an ambassador for the program. I’m proud to be part of a group that is committed to helping women return to their families and communities. I think we have one of the best re-entry organizations in the BOP (Bureau of Prisons).
It’s our mission in the Career Resource Center to help women come up with a plan, a purpose, and a mission. We want each woman to value herself, build a healthy self-esteem, and prepare for job interviews at home. We have a class starting soon that will teach women how to explain their conviction. I taught, “Explaining Your Conviction” at Dublin, and think the class can create a new paradigm in the participants, a class I’m very passionate about!
I love focusing on reuniting women with their families, and communities, it’s the best part of prison! Photography has been a passion of mine for years. When I photograph a person I get the chance to look inside their heart. We make a unique connection that I enjoy. I’m grateful to work in positions that are fulfilling. I’m grateful to have a purpose in Federal prison!
My first day as a photographer was amazing! I was asked to take pictures of women and their families in the visiting room.
I’ve been a photographer most of my life and had very few occasions to be intimidated. When I started photographing my first family group in visiting I was nervous. I couldn’t help thinking, “This picture is so important to get right!” I was photographing a woman who has little opportunity to see her family, and she was so excited! They had an infant and small child in their group. I wanted to capture their excitement and was able to get the baby to smile right away. The toddler kept making funny faces, so I played a few games with the little guy, and he started to giggle; boom, I got the perfect picture!
The years I spent working in my uncle’s child photography studio paid off. I may not have recognized how important that picture was a few years ago, I may have been more concerned about the equipment, or technical aspects of the photograph than the content? I hate to think that I would have missed the significance of that moment.
Nothing More Rewarding
As I stood in a prison visiting room I thought,
“There isn’t one event that I’ve photographed that was any more rewarding!”
Capturing the precious time women get with their families is a high honor! As I left the visiting room a woman came up to me and said,
“You made us feel so special Portia. Thank you!”
A few days later another inmate saw me on the compound and said,
“Miss Portia, you made me look so beautiful in my picture, it had 3 flowers in it, one for each one of my children, I can’t wait to send it home!”
It really is the little things in life that matter most.
My Favorite Pen Pal
CJ’s birthday was Thursday and I miss that little squirrel so much! She sent me a letter asking if I would be her pen pal. She said, “I want to know all about you mom: what is your favorite color, what is the weather like there, and who is your best friend?” At the end of the letter she said, “Mom, I love you so much. Achly (meaning actually) I would risk my life for you.” What a beautiful little 9 years old she is! I was very excited to become CJ’s pen pal and immediately wrote her back telling her all about myself.
I told CJ how smart she is becoming, how much I love her and how excited I am to have my first pen pal. My family hasn’t planned a visit yet because I should be going back to Utah for a hearing any day.
Update On Filed Motion
It’s been 6 months since I filed a motion in Federal court describing my compromised mental state at the time of the guilty plea. Judge Shelby may be taking his time setting up a hearing because of the seriousness of the situation. Based on the evidence we submitted he could order my immediate release, but I think it is more likely that he will err on the side of justice and give the prosecutors, as well as my lawyers a chance to be heard in court before he makes his final decision.
When the next step comes, and a hearing date is set, or my release is ordered, I will let you all know. In closing, I want to share a quote I read recently written by President Thomas S. Monson, a leader in the LDS church. President Monson said,
“Let us face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility.”
It is my goal to live worthy of that statement!
Thank you for following along, I greatly appreciate your prayers, your love, and your support!