Norris HendersonFounder and Executive Director of Voters Organized to Educate New Orleans, LA Award Year: 2022
Norris Henderson is Founder and Executive Director of Voters Organized to Educate, which is dedicated to building an educated and engaged democracy by keeping people informed about elections, including ongoing issues at the city, state, and national level. He serves in the same role in VOE’s sister organization, Voices of the Experienced (VOTE), a grassroots organization led by formerly incarcerated people with four chapters throughout Louisiana. VOTE holds a central role in multiple local and national coalitions, serving as a hub for criminal justice reform efforts. Through public advocacy and leadership development, VOTE influences and changes policies relating to jails, prisons, voting, employment, housing, parole, public health, and more. In 2018, Henderson served as the statewide campaign director for the Unanimous Jury Coalition, a ballot campaign that ended non-unanimous juries in Louisiana, He has had tremendous success impacting public policy and discourse about reentry, police accountability, public defense for poor and indigent people, and reforming the Orleans Parish Prison. Henderson spent 27 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, experiencing racism and brutality in the criminal justice system. Henderson was a jailhouse lawyer, a co-founder of The Angola Special Civics Project, and a trailblazer for freeing other wrongfully convicted people prior to the inception of the Innocence Project. While incarcerated, he co-founded a hospice program and drafted a successful parole reform law for Lifers. Since his release in 2003, Henderson has been at the forefront of initiatives that include voting rights, Ban-the-Box, and democratizing the jury system. He serves on the board of Common Justice and is a co-founder and steering committee member of the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Families Movement.