The money raised benefits the Cornerstone Bus Builders Project that offers free bus rides from New Orleans and Shreveport so that family and friends can visit their loved ones in prisons around the state.

For seven straight years bike riders in Nola to Angola have ridden the 170 mile stretch from New Orleans to Louisiana's State Penitentiary to shine a light on the barriers to family visitation. The 58 riders and 12 organizers raised almost $60,000 this year, which will fund charter busses so family members can visit their incarcerated loved ones.

The riders stopped in Gonzales on Friday night. For the past few years they have had free access to the United Steel Workers Union Hall during their trip. The group stayed the second night in St. Francisville before riding into Angola on Sunday morning. The ride coincides with the Angola Rodeo to give riders a chance to meet with inmates and hear their stories.

The money raised benefits the Cornerstone Bus Builders Project that offers free bus rides from New Orleans and Shreveport so that family and friends can visit their loved ones in prisons around the state. Minister Leo Jackson explained the project provides a desperately needed service that keeps families connected across great distances and barriers.

"The more we can keep the family intact, the more we can affect positive change," said Jackson. "We want to keep lines of communication open between prisoners and their families.”

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, Louisiana is in need of the monthly bus program to take family and friends to visit their loved ones imprisoned across the state. Without Cornerstone, the expense and distance of monthly trips to Angola and other prisons would be cost prohibitive for many.

“This is not just a fundraiser; it is a ride in solidarity with families that are separated by the prison system and a call for our incarcerated community members not to be forgotten,” said Katie Hunter-Lowery of Nola to Angola.

The annual ride began in 2011 as a way for riders to demonstrate the barriers some face in visiting their incarcerated loved ones. Sarah Holtz with Nola to Angola said riders range in experience and impact. Some have friends and family behind bars, others work as public defenders, and some simply want to support a good cause.

"It's a unique idea to go that distance on a bike, but it's our attempt to show the barriers to visiting people that are incarcerated are so huge," said Holtz. "Taking a bike represents those social and institutional barriers to connecting with incarcerated loved ones."

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