Former inmates deliver masks to prisons, jails across Louisiana

Former inmates spent time Friday, April 24 giving masks away to current inmates at prisons and...
Former inmates spent time Friday, April 24 giving masks away to current inmates at prisons and jails across Louisiana. (Source: WAFB)(KNOE)
Published: Apr. 25, 2020 at 10:33 AM CDT
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On Friday, April 24, a group donated more than 8,000 masks for prisoners across Louisiana.

The mission of a grassroots organization called VOTE, which stands for Voice of the Experienced, was to deliver masks to some of the state’s most vulnerable.

The thousands of N-95 masks were delivered to officials with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections on Friday, April 24.

“A lot of folks will probably look at this televised (segment) and say 8000 masks, why are you giving it to people in prison? You know why? Because we’ve been in prison,” said Norris Henderson, VOTE Executive Director.

VOTE is founded and run by formerly incarcerated people, their families, and allies.

They advocate for those detained in Louisiana’s criminal justice system.

Norris Henderson served almost 28 years in Angola.

“Everybody’s using the same urinal, everybody’s using the same commode, everybody’s using the same showerhead. So there’s only a limited amount of things that they can do to protect themselves,” said Henderson.

Ivy Mathis served around 26 years in prison as a juvenile.

She understands what people inside their cells, especially women, are going through during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is just a small token to let them know that many people are released, but we have not forgotten about you. A lot of people move on with their lives, but we have reached back,” said Mathis.

Wendy Matherne has a loved one who is serving time at a prison in Louisiana.

“I’m proud to be associated with them (VOTE). I’m so grateful that they care enough about my child. We should all care about our incarcerated population,” said Matherne.

The masks will be distributed to state-run prisons across Louisiana.

“This means a whole lot, especially when you consider how difficult it is to get masks like this. We’re going to use this in places where we have vulnerable populations. This will help our inmates and our staff safe. So it’s a wonderful thing what VOTE’s doing for us here at D.O.C.,” said Ken Pastorick, Communications Director for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

“Hopefully, this effort starts raising awareness for folks outside, to be more concerned about their brothers and sisters that were left outside,” said Henderson.

All members of the organization say they are just hopeful their donations make a big difference.

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