NEW ORLEANS, May 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Benito Castro, a formerly incarcerated individual who served time for fraudulent activity, celebrates two years of freedom by announcing the creation of the nonprofit Freedom Rides, which helps facilitate access to much-needed transportation needs for incarcerated individuals who will soon be transitioning back into society. The mission of the nonprofit is to help the formerly incarcerated community overcome transportation hardships they often encounter upon reentry by providing a Freedom Rides savings account dedicated to the purchase of a vehicle, as well as assistance to manage previous traffic fines, obtain insurance and secure a driver's license.
Transportation is critical for those recently released from prison as they seek to secure gainful employment and reintegrate into society. Often, incarcerated individuals are released and encounter obstacles with commuting to probation meetings, job interviews or simply getting to a doctor's appointment. By creating a reliable option for obtaining legal transportation and helping newly released individuals obtain a driver's license – a predominant problem for many being released from prison – Freedom Rides hopes to decrease instances of parole violations and help ensure a successful reentry.
"I remember when I started my reentry process; it was a time of confusion and anxiousness because I was removed from the outside for such a long period of time," said Benito Castro, Founder of Freedom Rides. "I hope this program will minimize stress associated with reentry by ensuring that incarcerated individuals can financially prepare themselves to pay for their transportation needs. I believe this program will knock down barriers, help incarcerated people adjust, and help prevent people from returning to prison."
The Freedom Rides program is available for those enrolled in work-release programs, which allow trusted individuals to leave the facility to work and return to prison when their shift is complete. Within a two-year window, individuals in the program can save money through their own Freedom Rides account, which saves a percentage from their daily wages so they are financially prepared to purchase a vehicle, fund road-ready efforts, secure a license and car insurance as well as pay previous traffic fees. Freedom Rides vehicles will be donated by Sheriff and State Police auctions, local car dealerships and private individuals.
During his incarceration at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in Louisiana, Mr. Castro enrolled in Lantern, a second chance academic program offering incarcerated students the opportunity to earn college credits and an online degree from Ashland University. Using a Securus Technologies tablet, Castro earned his Associate's Degree during his time served and created the concept of Freedom Rides while participating in an entrepreneurship class. After his release, Mr. Castro started working at Ideal Supermarkets and worked his way up to his current role as Director of Operations for the entire chain.
"Benito is a great example of why providing access to technology and education matters in prisons. He was able to use tablet technology to earn a college degree, build a career and create a potential solution for transportation obstacles that affect many newly released individuals," said Rhett Covington, Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. "We are encouraged by Benito's inspiration to establish Freedom Rides. Reentry programming and community support services such as this create the best opportunities for a successful reintegration back into society."
Freedom Rides will formally launch in July 2020. In anticipation of its launch, Mr. Castro created a GoFundMe campaign to raise seed money for the program's administrative and operational expenses. Already, $2,500 has been raised thanks to a donation from Securus Technologies, a provider of corrections-grade tablets, which have proven to be instrumental in helping Mr. Castro earn a college degree and bring his Freedom Rides vision to life.
Donations to fund Freedom Rides efforts can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/xtnf8-freedom-rides
About Freedom Rides
Freedom Rides is a nonprofit (501 C 3) that provides reliable, legal transportation to offenders returning to society through automobile ownership, drivers education, and assistance in obtaining insurance and licensure. For more information, please visit: https://freedomrides.org/
SOURCE Securus Technologies; Freedom Rides