WHEN KRISTAL Bush’s dad went to jail when she was just 3, the youngster would often visit him 300 miles away with her family.
Now 27, Kristal has lost track of the hours spent and miles covered over the years visiting friends and relatives in prison.
In 2012, the graduate and social worker from Philadelphia started Bridging the Gap Transportation.
It’s one of at least 20 companies in the state that shuttles people to area prisons.
Several times a week, Kristal’s vans pick up riders who pay between $25 and $70 and take them to 17 prisons across the state. On most of those trips, Bush also visits someone.
Many customers don’t have cars, but even those who do like driving with someone who has taken the long, emotionally draining trips to stay connected to their own loved ones.
This wasn’t the plan. When Kristal was in college, there were times that she wanted nothing more than to leave behind the well-worn roads to prisons that held so many of her relatives.
But she acknowledged that, even as a social worker, she didn’t always get the satisfaction she does now.
She holds cookouts and back-to-school drives for the families. She holds nervous first-time visitors’ hands. And more than once, she’s hugged a child who cracks a little when the visit is over and they have to leave their father behind. She knows that feeling well.
“A lot of people don’t know what they’re getting into until they get into that van,” she said.