New Murals of Formerly Incarcerated Philadelphians Aim to Change the Narrative of Life After Prison

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Helen Ubiñas: Columnist | September 22, 2021


There isn’t much distance between two new murals at the underpass at 21st and JFK, and that’s by design.


On one wall are 20-plus-foot likenesses of nine formerly incarcerated Philadelphians dressed in the kind of uniforms they wore behind bars — drab, deliberately anonymous— beneath the words: “Once Stigmatized.”


On another wall, just across the street, there they are again, this time dressed in clothing representative of their individual personalities and journeys beyond bars. The words “Always Resilient” are written above.


Depending on which way you approach the underpass, you either first see them as the inmates that they once were or the community leaders they now are — captive or captivating.


What struck me as I waited at the underpass to meet a few of them recently, was just how little distance there is — figuratively and literally, in this case — between people society deems irredeemable and those who prove otherwise when given a second chance.


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