Biking Behind Bars: Inmates Pedal Toward a Better Future

Election Cycle travels to Riverside Correctional Facility in Philadelphia.

— -- Riverside Correctional Facility in Philadelphia is one of the only jails in the country that has a regular spin class for female inmates.

Women who face criminal charges ranging from larceny to murder participate in the hour-long cycling sessions.

Megan Do Nascimento, a professional instructor from a program called “Gearing Up," leads over a dozen inmates in a series of sprints three times a week to help maintain their energy and health behind bars.

“Mentally, it definitely keeps me sane,” said one participant who has been with the program for six years. “Aside from spirituality, I've actually lost 80 pounds.”

After the pedaling portion, I asked the inmates about their political views.

Although they expressed strong opinions about the candidates, many of these women will not be permitted to vote in the 2016 election. In Pennsylvania and most other U.S. states, felons lose their right vote while they are incarcerated. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote.

Over 6.1 million citizens in the U.S. are blocked from voting due to "felony disenfranchisement" -- laws restricting voting rights for those convicted of felony-level crimes, according to a Sentencing Project report.

After serving time behind bars, felons in the majority of U.S. states eventually regain their right to vote even if they remain on probation or parole.

At a nearby transitional home, formerly incarcerated women spoke optimistically about their futures and the impact pedaling had on their personal lives.

Gearing Up provides a variety of incentives to encourage women to continue to ride once they return home to their families, including a new bicycle for participants who pedal more than 150 miles.