At 8 a.m. today, more than 50 bicyclists pedaled from the steps of the New Orleans Police Department headquarters to make the nearly 200-mile trek to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. It's the fifth annual bike ride for Nola to Angola
, which gathers riders to support the Cornerstone Builder's Bus Project — and it's the group's largest ride yet.
Since 2007, Cornerstone has provided free monthly 55-passenger bus rides to families of incarcerated people, keeping intact communication between people imprisoned throughout the state — which has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world — and support on the outside. Making long trips to visit incarcerated family members often is cost prohibitive for many families in the state, and Cornerstone aims to ease that burden. Nola to Angola serves as a lifeline to help fund them.
Cornerstone founder Leo Jackson said Nola to Angola is invaluable to the program in ensuring it has monthly trips. "It's a partnership you can't buy with money," Jackson told the riders.
"They got good hearts," he told Gambit
before shaking hands with riders as they checked the air in their tires and strapped in their saddle bags. To raise money for the organization, riders are "sponsored" for the trip, then pay for their own food and supplies and camp along the route. New Orleans City Council president Jason Williams thanked the riders "for sacrificing your legs, your days, your energy."
"The city represents the last connection to family — a child growing without a parent, parents living and surviving without the kids they raise," Williams told Gambit
. "Nola to Angola is the only vein to that heart. ... We’re a state and a town of over-incarceration. It may never be fixed on a statewide level, until then we have to rely on these folks."