What is Bar None?
Bar None is an abolitionist prisoner solidarity group based out of Treaty 1 territory, on the land of Anishinaabeg (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We view our commitment to prison abolition as related to the dismantling of the ongoing occupation and theft of these lands. The Prison Rideshare is an ongoing project of Bar None to connect people with rides to visit their friends and loved ones who are in prison.
Why are rides to prison important?
Most of Manitoba’s prisons are located outside of the cities where the majority of imprisoned people are from. There are no busses to take people to prisons, and this often means people on the inside don’t get visited, and people on the outside don’t get to visit if they don’t have regular access to a car.
Connecting people with rides is one way to work against the damage incarceration does to the relationships that sustain communities. We see this work as part of our commitment to the principles of prison abolition.
Prison abolition? What’s that all about?
Prisons haven’t been around forever, and we don’t think they will be. The current justice system is failing. Yet most people still think of prison as the one and only way to deal with crime, especially violent crime. This lack of imagination afflicts even the most progressive segments of society.
Prisons don’t work, because they don’t actually reduce crime. They are racist: in Western Canada, prisons and policing were developed to target Indigenous peoples. In 2014, 77% of the people imprisoned in Manitoba were Indigenous (and that number is rising) whereas Indigenous peoples make up 17% of Manitoba’s population. Prisons are classist because they target poor people more than rich people. They are cruel and ineffective because they take people away from their families and communities, which isolates prisoners rather than holding people accountable for the harms they may have caused. This causes lasting harm to imprisoned people and their communities.
Reformers try to make prisons more sensitive to the needs of different groups – unfortunately evidence shows that this often leads to more people imprisoned and more families divided. At the same time, the move to free some prisoners – such as those imprisoned for minor offenses – reinforces the idea that other people truly belong in prison. Prison abolition means we need to stop thinking that way, and start thinking about what might work better. There are more humane and effective forms of justice than prisons and we need to start practicing them.