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This article was published 21/4/2017 (1687 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Members of Winnipeg’s Bar None rideshare program know that the prison system affects whole families and communities, not just the person who has been sentenced.
The group runs primarily out of the city’s west neighbourhoods, where members live and hold meetings. The idea is simple: volunteers sign up to drive folks in need of a ride to Stony Mountain Institution where they have loved ones in prison.
"So much of prison is about removing people from society, marking people as threats to society and shaming and dehumanizing people, and we really try to work against that as much as we can," member Owen Toews said.
The West End resident said the program was started by him and some friends, many of whom have taken part in anti-police and anti-prison efforts. He said providing rides is a twofold endeavour — it’s filling a gap in the kinds of support available for family members of incarcerated individuals, and it’s an oppositional strategy.
"We see it as extremely oppositional to the prison system in supporting people who are oppressed by the prison system," Toews said. "We see that as a really productive way of opposing the prison system."
Bar None’s funding has been provided through Neighbourhoods Alive via the West Broadway Community Organization and the Daniel McIntyre/St. Matthews Community Association. The province’s recent cuts to Neighbourhoods Alive will likely affect Bar None.
All the money provided goes towards paying for gas, which averages out to approximately $100 per week. Cash donations and volunteers are both needed, and gratefully accepted, Toews said.
"We see providing rides to visit loved ones in prison as trying to break down the division that prison imposes on families and communities and help people to sort of resist the role of the prison in their lives."
He says the idea came from those working in a social work setting.
"Through their work (they) had realized that this was a really basic need that was going largely unmet and that could be addressed relatively easily."
They currently have approximately 100 volunteers and 30 to 50 clients that use the services. Toews said that because Bar None’s philosophy is anti-prison, clients feel safe to share their stories and experiences.
"People are very grateful," he said. "I think one of the really great thinks about co-ordinating this rideshare as prison abolishment is the way we frame the issue — that no one belongs in prison, and because we come into it with that perspective, the conversations we have with people getting rides are, I think, different than a lot of conversations that might happen if that wasn’t the starting point.
"So people share stories about how messed up the prison system is, how it doesn’t make any sense, how inhumane it is how people are treated, at times violently and certainly unfairly, every day. So we have a lot of just really critical conversations about the system and how it works."
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Community journalist — The Metro
Alana Trachenko was the community journalist for The Metro