Ever see an airplane or bus pass by and wondered where it was going? Well, the Q100 bus out of Queens, N.Y., has a unique route. It's the only form of public transportation to one of the worst jails in the country: Rikers Island.
Photographer Salvador Espinoza set out to reveal what that long ride on the Q100 through Queens and over the "Bridge of Pain" to the Perry Center on Rikers Island was really like for the people riding to visit loved ones. After all, the Queens native has seen the families of the incarcerated waiting to board that bus every Thursday through Sunday for as long as he could remember.
"The key inspiration was to make more people aware of the effects of mass incarceration on inmates' families," Espinoza tells A Plus. "If one were to ride on the Q100 you would begin to wonder what happens on their visits as well as once they go back home and deal with the reality of having a loved one locked away."
Through black-and-white images, Espinoza was able to capture the raw emotion of the Q100 passengers enduring the long trek for a brief visit. Take for example Ivana, a woman Espinoza saw riding the Q100 bus often for a chance to see her 19-year-old son who had already been at Rikers for three years.
"She had not seen him in four months and was worried he wasn't receiving the packages she would send him," Espinoza recalls. "She was fresh off a kidney transplant when she went to visit and because of the DOC's (Department of Corrections) policy of not allowing medication on the island, she wasn't able to take her meds at the prescribed time."
Due to her medical requirements that couldn't be fulfilled on Rikers Island, Ivana was only able to visit with her son for a very short time.
"In total, she spent about six hours [traveling] for a five-minute visit," Espinoza adds.
The Q100: Photographing the city bus to Rikers exhibit, which was funded by the Queens Council on the Arts, began on Dec. 10 at QNS Collective in Long Island City, Queens, and will be on display until January 15, 2017.
"My goal is to bring more awareness to the effect these policies have on families on our communities," Espinoza says. "This is really just a start for this project, and I hope to continue this work for years to come as I see it evolving and taking on its own course."
Check out more of Salvador Espinoza's compelling work.
1. A woman with two small children makes the journey to Rikers Island.
2. Passengers are given an amnesty period before exiting the bus at Rikers Island where they can leave any contraband on the bus and they will not be charged.
3. Inmates are only allowed to wear solid white undergarments. Many visitors pick up these necessities at the bus stop, foregoing the long process of having them shipped and possibly never reaching their loved one.
4. A gentleman passenger heading to visit a loved one at Rikers Island.
5. A Rikers Island corrections officer holds the back doors of the bus.
6. The Q100 bus is the only method of public transportation onto Rikers Island. People from all over the city and sometimes out of state ride the bus in order to visit their loved ones Wednesdays through Sundays. Newly released inmates who do not have anyone to pick them up also ride this bus.
7. After the long trek, Q100 passengers enter the Rikers Island visitors center to see their loved ones.