Norris Henderson, Executive Director of VOTE, who spent 27 years, 10 months, and 18 days at Angola State Prison for a crime which he did not commit.
As most people are aware, yesterday (June 19th, 2020) was Juneteenth, which marks an official celebration of the liberation of African Americans from slavery.
Yesterday was also the day in which approximately 200 activists affiliated with Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) gathered just outside of the gates of Angola to peacefully and professionally voice their sentiments that the prison conditions at Angola in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are unacceptable.
Presentations were made by several relatives of current inmates and by previously-incarcerated Angola inmates. The presentations provide a unique insider’s look at Angola conditions. Let’s take a look at the gathering from beginning to end (including a two-mile walk from the post office just up the street immediately prior to the beginning of the day’s event):
VOTE-affiliated demonstrators express their sentiments about conditions at Angola State Prison just outside the prison’s gates on Friday, June 19th, 2020.
VOTE is an organization growing in numbers, and it has a very strong following on its Facebook Page. From that page regarding yesterday’s peaceful demonstration:
We spent Juneteenth at Angola. On a day where we are supposed to be celebrating freedom, we could not forget our brothers and sisters who are still locked behind bars. Thank you to everyone who marched with us! Many members of the VOTE family spoke truth to power at the gates of Angola with their loved ones locked on the other side. We are still demanding that our officials let out those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19! Join us in action today by calling Governor Edwards at (225) 342-7015.
Sound Off Louisiana was invited to join the gathering by Ms. Belinda Parker-Brown, whom most subscribers will recall is the founder of Louisiana United International.
After the gathering, Parker-Brown and Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns gathered for a few minutes to allow Ms. Brown to voice her frustration regarding Angola Prison conditions and her frustrations with Gov. Edwards. She contends Edwards has failed miserably to live up to a commitment she claims he made regarding the number of prisoners who would be released from Angola as a safeguarding of prisoner lives in the wake of COVID-19.
Parker-Brown asserts that only about eight percent (8%) of the prisoners scheduled for release have been actually released. She further does not mince her words in stating in the video below that Gov. Edwards and other top Louisiana State governmental officials have “lied” about that matter . Let’s now focus in on all that Parker-Brown had to say right after the above demonstration:
We took the time to watch the video on VOTE’s homepage, which was professionally done and succinctly explains the organization’s formation and its goals. We’re going to present that video with this feature as well:
Video on VOTE’s homepage.
We would like to compliment the professionalism and friendliness that the organizers of this event and law enforcement officials (both Angola officials and the West Feliciana Sheriff’s officials) demonstrated yesterday. In the current environment of riots and mass destruction of public and private property, it was a very welcome experience, and we were honored to have been invited to observe and report upon this event. The organizers were very well prepared with plenty of ice-cold bottled water. Further, make no mistake, Burns made use of several bottles both for drinking and literally pouring directly upon his head in a near-futile effort to beat the stifling heat!
Seeing the warmth and hospitality we were shown by the family members of these prisoners makes us at Sound Off Louisiana all the more openly question the appropriateness of recent commentary of 14th JDC Judge David Ritchie as featured in this March 26, 2020 Washington Post article. Here is a repeat of Ritchie’s commentary:
I want to know what was considered by those who agreed that “under the circumstances” it is a good idea to release the nonviolent prisoners from the [Calcasieu Correctional Center], other than Harry’s email from last week. Who is this intended to help? As we all should know, the members of this particular population are overwhelmingly drug addicts who have the worst hygiene of anyone in the community, other than the mentally ill. Right now, they are realistically quarantined in jail. I assume that none of you called the jail to find out if it was necessary or advisable to take this action, since I called [CCC warden Chris] Domingue and he wasn’t aware of any such contact. He told me that they have implemented protocols to do their best to make sure Corona doesn’t enter the CCC, which includes screening people as they are booked in, not allowing visitors, etc. The drug addicts will be right back out using and stealing and getting rearrested, which is much more likely to introduce the virus into the jail and spread it in the community. I’ll have more to say at the meeting, but it makes no sense at all, if the purpose is supposed to be to prevent the spread of Corona.
For the record, Ritchie refutes the above-linked Washington Post article. Of course, as long-time Sound Off Louisiana subscribers are aware, Ritchie exhibits little hesitation to place his foot in his mouth on a routine basis, even doing so in open court as he openly lampooned the legal skills of Attorney General Jeff Landry.
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