PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On this national holiday to celebrate the release of the nation’s last slaves, thousands, mostly minorities, are locked up in the nation’s prisons and jails. In this era of mass incarceration, one local group is trying to stop a cycle that has caused massive damage.

The tough drug policies of the 80s set the stage for mass incarceration. According to the Sentencing Project, 2 million people are in custody; that’s nearly a 500 percent increase over 40 years.

“We abolished slavery, but it really turned into modern-day slavery,” said Dr, Jaclyn Walker, who is the founder of The M.A.N Foundation.

(Photo courtesy: MAN Foundation)

Since 2015, Dr. Jacklyn Walker’s Men Alleviating Negativity Foundation has worked to break the constellation of problems that surrounds mass incarceration.

Last year, 10 On Your Side took you to a holiday event that focused on prisoners and the children they leave behind.

“They were just a part of that collateral damage piece because they are associated with you [the prisoner]. That really hurts and that comes back to that brokenness. Families are broken apart because of a crime that they didn’t have anything to do with,” said Dr. Walker.

(Photo courtesy: MAN Foundation)

Her non-profit organization as works behind the bars to offer prisoners restoration and a path to a meaningful future. Through community and family support the M.A.N. foundation hopes to break the cycle.

“They [prisoners] always say they need help with jobs; they need help with restoring relationships and they need help with breaking the cycle of recidivism because their parents or another family member has also been incarcerated.

Dr. Walker is also calling on employers, to offer more flexibility in hiring those with a criminal record.