Cleveland cab-driving crime victim gives back by transporting family members to prison visits

Cab driver, Bill Anderson, now uses his vehicle to transport family members of those...
Cab driver, Bill Anderson, now uses his vehicle to transport family members of those incarcerated to prison visits.(WOIO)
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 3:56 AM CDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cleveland cab driver Bill Anderson was just trying to make a living by picking up some passengers at West 77th Street and Detroit Avenue when his life was changed forever.

“I had a small feeling, a hunch that things were going to go sour,” Anderson said.

But that fare and that night in 2008 turned violent. He was robbed and shot.

The pair of men who attacked him were never identified, arrested or charged.

“The bullet is still lodged in there. They said it’s more dangerous to take it out at this time than to keep it in,” he said.

That violent encounter happened 14 years ago and that bullet is still there, along with the scars of a night that still haunts him.

“Mentally, it’s totally different. There’s not a day that doesn’t go by when I don’t hear a car backfire, can’t enjoy the fireworks,” Anderson said as he winced.

It wasn’t the only time Anderson was the victim of a violent crime. He’s been robbed seven times on the job, yet he kept getting back behind the wheel and picking up passengers.

“I’ve always lived on the notion of saving lives one ride at a time. We have a purpose in life, being there to help people make the right decisions when they’re drinking and not driving is most important,” Anderson said.

That sense of purpose and experience behind the wheel has driven him to start a business, CLE Jailbird Express. He takes his cab and transports loved ones of those incarcerated to visit them in prison.

“We’re so eager to arrest, charge, sentence, imprison these people. And when you come out, are you going to be any better? The healing, the forgiveness has to begin somewhere,” he said.

He and others in his network of cab-driving crusaders will take people to prisons all over the state, including the Mansfield, Lorain and Marion Correctional Institutions, the Ohio State Penitentiary and Ohio Reformatory for Women.

They’ll pick passengers up, wait out the visit and return home.

Charles Dagg has a heart condition that prohibits him from driving the three hours it takes to get to the Ross Correctional Institution to visit his nephew, who’s been locked up for a year-and-a-half.

“And then when I came across Bill Anderson’s service about a year ago, it was like a blessing,” said Dagg, who doesn’t have anyone else to drive him.

Dagg appreciates the opportunity to show up for his nephew who is trying to turn his life around.

“He’s trying to get his GED while he’s in there. He’s trying to accomplish something so he has something to do when he gets out,” he said.

Dagg tries to visit every other week because he believes it’s helping his nephew recover and rebuild.

“I think that gives him encouragement, gives him hope. So when he gets out there’s somebody there to support him,” he said.

And that in turn encourages Anderson, who says these trips are both a service and a ministry.

“As a victim of a major life-changing event, we have two choices. Sit back and play victim, or be the voice of change,” he said.

There’s a CLE Jailbird Express fundraising event scheduled for Oct. 29 at the Grindstone Bar in Berea to help Anderson transition the rides to a non-profit free service.