Busing Families – and Food – to Prisoners

Jalal Sabur delivering fresh produce. (Photo by Maura Ewing via Mott Haven Herald)

Jalal Sabur delivering fresh produce. (Photo by Maura Ewing via Mott Haven Herald)

A farmer from Germantown, New York, has launched a new service that both delivers fresh produce to prisoners in many of the state’s correctional institutions and transports family members to see the prisoners, Maura Ewing reports in Mott Haven Herald.

After Jalal Sabur, 34, first started delivering the fresh food to prisoners upstate, he realized that many of them were from New York City, and he hit on a plan to transport families to see their loved ones. He launched the nonprofit startup, Victory Bus, two years ago, and prisoners and families alike say it has been a godsend. Even though bus lines exist that take family members to see their relatives in prison, the cost is often prohibitive.

With rates of $25 per passenger and $90 for a family of five, Victory is currently the best deal in town. A larger company, Prison Gap Buses, charges between $50-$80 per adult passenger depending on the distance, and $20-$40 for children under ten. [The NYS Department of Corrections once bused families for free, but shut the program down in 2011 for budgetary reasons.]

But the project’s added value is what passengers get to take with them. For the price of a ticket, Sabur’s passengers get a package of fresh food to bring to the inmates they’re visiting. And because the ticket price includes food, passengers can pay with their EBT cards.

And the delivery of fresh produce is appreciated by prisoners like Robert Seth Hayes at Sullivan Correctional Facility, a high-security prison in Fallsburg, New York.

The vegetables are a huge benefit, given the few nutritional choices available in prison, said Hayes.

A former member of the Black Panther Party who has been incarcerated since 1973, Hayes says that the regular visits he receives from his family members, and Sabur, are “the foundation of survival.” That’s no exaggeration, said Ann Jacobs, director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Maintaining ties with family members not only helps inmates cope with time in prison, she said; it also helps former inmates overcome the painful process of reintegrating into society once they are released.

Read Mott Haven Herald to learn what happened when Sabur tried to drum up more business for his bus service.

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