Manitoba

Prison rideshare service allows visits outside of city for free

A Winnipeg woman says a new prison rideshare service is helping relieve the stress of visiting her husband in jail at Headingley Correctional Institute.

Rideshare user says it's a 'blessing that people take time of their lives to help.'

The co-ordinators of Manitoba Prison Rideshare say prisons divide families and communities. (Shutterstock)

A Winnipeg woman says a new prison rideshare service is helping relieve the stress of visiting her husband in jail at Headingley Correctional Institute.

"You have these stresses of not seeing each other and it just causes tension and fights," said Nicole Nykorak. "The rideshare service eliminated that stress."

Nykorak doesn't have a car to drive about 45 minutes out of the city to visit her husband. When he went to jail last year, they talked to some friends about getting rides.

"People are so unreliable," she said. "I just wasn't planning on seeing him, period." 

Nykorak's husband went to jail just a few weeks before she found out about Manitoba Prison Rideshare in the fall and has since used it a handful of times to visit him on Sundays.

Manitoba Prison Rideshare co-ordinator Owen Toews and rideshare user Nicole Nykorak in the CBC studio. (CBC)
"It's definitely something for him to look forward to. It increases his happiness and his stability mentally and mine too," she said.

She wishes something like this existed years ago when she was incarcerated so family could have visited her, she said.

"It was such a mood kill, such a damper, because you look forward to seeing them and then a day or minute beforehand you find out that they can't come because they don't have a ride so what you were looking forward to is basically gone," she said.

People doing time look forward to the release date, mail and visits. This rideshare service makes at least one of those happen, she said. 

"[It's a] blessing that people take time of their lives to help families see their loved ones incarcerated and that is something I haven't seen since meeting this group," she said.

Manitoba Prison Rideshare is an initiative of Bar None, a prisoner solidarity organization in Winnipeg that believes in prison abolition.

Owen Toews is one of about half a dozen co-ordinators, some originally from Bar None and some who helped start the rideshare service this past summer.

"We shared the view that prisons divide families and communities," he said. "This is something that's going unaddressed and it's an important need that we want to fill in our community."

How the service works

People who need rides can call or email the organization and let a co-ordinator know when they need a ride, to what prison, and their address and phone number. The co-ordinator puts a call out to the list of drivers and sets up the ride.

Grants from the Daniel Mac St. Matthew's Community Association and West Broadway Community Organization have allowed the co-ordinators to cover  drivers' mileage, coffee and meals. With that money the group also bought two car seats to accommodate kids.

"We've been able to meet every request for rides that we've gotten so far but we're also pretty small at this point," he said. "We're looking to definitely reach out and find more people who both need rides and can offer rides."

Drivers and users can call Bar None's Manitoba Prison Rideshare at 204-861-0642 or email barnone.wpg@gmail.com.