By Lisa Riordan Seville and Zara Katz
Origunally published in thegaurdian
When Kristal Bush’s mother nearly went broke from the expense of visiting her son in prison, Kristal saw an opportunity to connect Philadelphia families to loved ones locked up hours away – and Bridging the Gap was born.
This project was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project
In the half light on a quiet street on the edge of west Philadelphia, Kristal Bush shut her front door and hustled down her stone steps. She crossed the street and climbed into the driver’s seat of her shiny, black 12-passenger Sprinter van. Juggling two phones, she turned the key. The engine chugged awake, and she started tapping out texts to her riders. A few minutes shy of 6am on a summer Sunday, Kristal was already late.
About six years ago, when Kristal was 22, she and her mother, Crystal Speaks, decided to try their hands at turning circumstance into opportunity. Crystal was going broke from the expense of the visits to see her son, Jarvae. He was serving a 10-year sentence in Huntingdon state prison, 200 miles from Philadelphia. Opportunity came in the form of thousands of Philadelphia families like theirs who have someone locked up far from home.
In the years Jarvae was at Huntingdon, Crystal got to know some of the other regulars well enough to start giving them rides. She’d pick them up from their homes twice a month in her white Nissan Armada. They’d pay her $50 for her gas and her trouble. It was just $5 or $10 more than the bus a local not-for-profit group offered, but they had to meet the bus in downtown Philly before daybreak. What Crystal didn’t spend on the trip she’d put on Jarvae’s commissary account, easing the prison’s bite into the paycheck she brought working long hours as a nurse’s aide.
One day in the visiting room, Jarvae looked around at the women his mom had driven there that day. “Jarvae said, ‘Man, there’s a lot of people coming up here, you should turn this into a van service,’” Crystal remembered. Jarvae called his sister Kristal and leaned on her to help make it happen. On that bumpy road of carceral enterprise, Bridging the Gap LLC rolled to life.
Please read the entire article here: thegaurdian