Volunteers will receive email notifications when ride requests come in. You can then go to the website to claim a ride. It’s important to maintain your commitment once you sign up for a ride. Riders depend on your offer and often have gone to considerable lengths to arrange their schedules around it.
We recommend that new volunteers start by picking up at rider at the train station. The majority of our requests are for the first train of the day (arriving at 7:42 AM on weekdays and 8:22 AM on weekends), as well as returns to the station at around 2-3:00 PM. We treat each leg of a trip as one ride. (You are almost never asked to sign on for a round trip ride).
Some riders will need baby or child seats for children in tow. You will know that beforehand and we have seats you can borrow. Occasionally riders have luggage for overnight visits and you will need to make room in your trunk.
Volunteers should make a name sign with their first name printed on it so that the riders can find you.
Picking up at the train station: Please park along the curb at the south end of the station on the side away from the river, close to the shuttle stop (so that riders with mobility issues can use the elevator and ramps). Please avoid the taxi area.
Picking up at the prisons: At all locations, we ask that you park and get out of your car with your name sign rather than loop past the visitor entrance.
Drivers should take cues from the riders as to what level of conversation, if any, is comfortable. Starting with something very general shows friendliness and gives the rider a choice of whether to converse or not. For example: Have you taken this train trip before? Did you get a river seat? Isn’t this crazy weather we’re having? The focus should always be on the rider, not the person who is incarcerated or the crime. Of course, many riders will take the conversation well beyond small talk, but that is their prerogative.
We ask drivers to keep in mind that a prison visit can be a long and trying day. It likely involves waking up very early to take the subway or bus from an outer borough in time to make the Metro North train in Manhattan. Prison personnel can often be brusque or rude in their enforcement of the many rules and procedures required to enter the prison visiting area. The wait times can be long and can seem arbitrary, with no updates or explanations from prison staff. Added to that is the emotional weight family members may carry away with them from their incarcerated loved ones—the weight of day-to-day prison experiences and the months or years left on their sentences. We ask that you be considerate and take your cues from the riders as to how much or how little they want to converse.
No. Beacon Prison Rides runs on a shoestring budget. In addition to their time, volunteers contribute the cost of gas.
Most drivers and riders wear masks during the ride and if the weather allows, keep a window open. Drivers should feel free to ask riders to wear masks.
Fishkill Prison can be reached by taking 9D North, turning right on Verplanck and then left on Matteawan Road. Go past the high school on the left and you will see a guard station. Stop there and explain that you are dropping off or picking up at the prison. Then continue on past a large building on the left and turn left into the short driveway with a small parking lot. It is not well marked but you will see the lot and a trailer. This is where the taxis go and we have faced no resistance to parking there so far but to avoid any hassle, you might want to drive up, scan for your riders, and if they aren’t out yet, leave and come back in a few minutes.
Downstate Prison is a little further from the station than Fishkill (about a 10-minute drive). You go north on Route 9D and turn right at Red Schoolhouse Road:
The prison entrance is well marked and the visitors’ center is easy to find onyour right after you enter the main driveway (red circle in close-up map below).
Green Haven is about a 25 minute-drive from Beacon near Stormville. Take I-84 East. Get off at Exit 52B which puts you on the Taconic Parkway North. Go 1.3 miles to the first exit, 38 and turn right onto Route 52E. After 1.1 miles, turn left onto Rout 216. Stay on 216 for about 2 miles and you will see the prison entrance on your right. Google Maps will give you good directions, and we recommend you use that or GPS on your phone as you drive so that you catch all the turns once you exit the Taconic.
At the prison, the visitor entrance is to the right as you face the main entrance. You will see a sidewalk and a set of stairs leading from the visitor entrance down to the parking lot on the right. We suggest parking as close to those stairs as you can (red circle in the map below) and then standing in front of your car holding your name sign so riders can see you as they come down the stairs.
Shawangunk and Wallkill Prisons are adjacent to each other on the other side of the river from Beacon. They are about a 30-minute drive from the train station. To get there, take I-84 West to Exit 39A. Turn left to take 32 North. Continue on 32 until it becomes 300 and keep going (10 miles total). Turn right onto 208N at the light. Go 2 miles until you see Quick Road on your left. There are no big signs for the prison, but there are a few general warnings about "correctional facilities.” You can use Google Maps, but if you do, be sure to turn it off as soon as you turn onto Quick Road because it will lead you astray at that point. Just follow signs to Wallkill on the left or Shawangunk straight ahead.