April 4, 2020

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Opinion

Offering a lift keeps loved ones in touch

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/5/2017 (1062 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As a high-school teacher, Lindsay Brown encourages her students to think globally and act locally, so they might make a difference in the world.

Brown exemplifies that attitude as a volunteer driver with the Prison Rideshare Project, which gives people free rides to visit their loved ones who are in prison.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Lindsay Brown and Rebecca Ward are volunteers with the Prison Rideshare Project, which gives people rides to visit loved ones who are behind bars.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lindsay Brown and Rebecca Ward are volunteers with the Prison Rideshare Project, which gives people rides to visit loved ones who are behind bars.

"I was looking at ways of getting more active and being more involved in the local community," says Brown, 33. "I wanted to give back in a way that was more tangible than giving money. I have a vehicle and my weekends are flexible, so I signed up to do some rides. Now, I (offer) rides whenever I can."

Most of Manitoba’s prisons and jails are located outside the cities where most of the prisoners are from.

"If you aren’t able to drive yourself out there, then there’s no way for someone to get to Stony Mountain or Milner Ridge (Correctional Institution)," Brown says.

Providing rides is "a really important way to help people stay connected when they have someone they love in (prison)."

Rebecca Ward began volunteering with the program six weeks ago and has already done seven trips.

For Ward, who has an undergraduate degree in conflict resolution and will begin studying law at the University of Ottawa this fall, the project speaks to her interest in social justice.

"I really feel that our current system does harm to people… and I think that it also damages relationships and communities," Ward, 23, says. "I got involved because I thought what I could offer in time and driving is work I could do to fight the harm being done by our criminal justice system."

The project is totally volunteer-run by Bar None, a Winnipeg-based abolitionist prisoner solidarity group.

Providing rides is straightforward. Those looking for rides contact Bar None organizers, who find volunteers to accommodate the request.

Once the driver and rider have been paired, it’s up to them to work out the logistics of the trip.

When it comes to the drive itself, Brown and Ward take their passengers’ lead in terms of conversation.

Sometimes they will talk during the entire trip, other times the small talk peters out and they just listen to music.

"I just try to make it as comfortable for them as possible," Brown says.

Bar None is looking for more drivers. Volunteers are reimbursed for gas as well as food consumed during the trip. Anyone interested in getting involved can email barnone.wpg@gmail.com.

"If people are wanting to get involved, they really should because it’s been a pretty great experience," Brown says.

Ward agrees: "Supporting people who are marginalized, especially folks who are locked up, is an important part of striving for a healthy and thriving community. Bar None is a really big part of that."

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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