Hartford first city to aid former inmates with Lyft rides
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Former inmates in Hartford are getting much-needed free transportation to get to job interviews or doctor appointments thanks to a new partnership with the ride-hailing company Lyft and a national nonprofit.
Hartford is the first city involved in the effort by #cut50, a bipartisan criminal justice reform group, and Lyft that will supplement 60 to 80 codes for former inmates to receive free transportation. Other organizations and cities are expected to follow in Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York City, and Washington D.C.
Lyft will supply about $80,000 worth of free ride codes around the country.
“If we are going to be successful, not just here in Hartford, but nationally, at helping people who are re-entering communities to successfully rebuild their lives, it’s going to take broad partnerships,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said.
Hartford City Councilman TJ Clarke who helped get the city initially involved with #cut50 said public transportation can be limiting and can’t always get people where they need to go in a timely manner, especially for a job interview.
The codes will be distributed by The Reentry Welcome Center in Hartford, and will have discretion on how to distribute them, said Louis L. Reed, national organizer for #cut50.
Reed, who served 14 years in a prison after growing up in Bridgeport, said the partnership came about last June and was championed through a relationship with Lyft and reality star-turned-criminal justice reform advocate Kim Kardashian to help deal with the lack of transportation for people leaving the correctional system.
The partnership comes after the nonprofit worked to get the First Step Act passed last year, which was a major criminal justice reform package that helped to bring thousands of formerly incarcerated people home early, Reed said.
He added the ride-sharing codes can go to anyone who has been criminally convicted, though, he would prefer those who were recently released from prison to secure the benefits first as a way for them to get back on their feet and have some form of support.
Reed is anxious to see how far the partnership will go as it prepares to spread to other cities.
“We are kind of looking somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 cities before the end of the year,” he said. Adding they hope to double that amount by the end of next year.
Reed hopes former inmates will benefit from the ride-share credits similar to that of Robert Wood who was recently released and is working to get his life back on track after earning bachelor’s degree while incarcerated.
Wood, of San Diego, was released in September after spending 17 years in prison, and has struggled to get to destinations. He earned his bachelor’s degree while incarcerated and is continuing his education at San Diego State University as he earns his master’s degree. The ride credits have offered him a glimmer of hope, he said.
“It helped me job hunt, get from point A to point B, a few doctors’ appointments,” Wood told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.
He said many people who come out of prison don’t have a license or people to help them get to where they need to go.
Wood said the codes can range from $15 to $30 depending on the distance and added that taking the bus can help, but sometimes there are still three miles that need to be walked for a place he would need to go.
“It’s a lifeline for going around to do what you need to do,” he said.
Chris Ehrmann is a corps member for Report for America , a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage, in a partnership with The Associated Press for Connecticut. The AP is solely responsible for all content.