Every evening, people sit down to watch detective programs that normally end with the culprit being led away to jail but rarely deal with what happens next.
Suppose that those programs followed the culprit through the incarceration process to final release. Would the story end with rehabilitation or a character embittered and cut off from the support of family and friends?
Far too often, the process of crime and punishment ends with shattered lives and broken families. However, a few small changes could make a difference.
Sometimes, the simplest solutions can have profound effects on complicated problems. For people whose friends or relatives are imprisoned in Manitoba, the Bar None‘s rideshare program is a way for people in a very difficult situation to connect with each other.
On July 14, participants, supporters, and interested observers of the rideshare program met together at the West End Cultural Centre for a social evening of conversation and learning through Bar None and Gizhiwenimin, two prisoner advocacy programs. For participants, it was a good chance to find out how a simple ride to prison can change lives.
Without rides, many inmates could go through their entire sentences without any visits from family or friends. However, finding a way to get to Headingley or Stony Mountain from Winnipeg can present significant barriers for low income people, especially given the lack of bus service to transport them to the area.
Poverty is an issue throughout the incarceration process, affecting everything from arrest to rehabilitation. According to an article by J. Reiman of the National Council of Welfare, research shows that the poor are arrested more often, released on bail less frequently, and incarcerated for longer periods of time than wealthier people, causing greater hardship for them and their families.
Rehabilitation is very difficult under these circumstances. Since cars are generally too expensive for the poor, a ride sharing program is an essential tool for connecting inmates with their families.
The Rideshare program allows people to donate their cars, their money, or their time to help alleviate the situation by helping to transport visitors to the prisons. The process is quite simple; volunteers can sign up as drivers or offer their cars for others to drive.
Bar None maintains a listserve to connect these volunteers with the people needing rides and helps to deal with logistical issues, training, and more.
Compared with many prison visitation initiatives, the rideshare program involves a fairly low level of commitment from its volunteers; once they have delivered passengers to their destination, they are free to spend the time as they wish before the return journey.
Still, the service they provide is extremely important, and without them the lives of many inmates and their families could be very bleak. Giving them the chance to visit with family and friends could make all the difference.