founder, executive director
Norris Henderson is the Founder and Executive Director of both VOTE and our sister organization, Voters Organized to Educate. Norris is a former OSI Soros Justice Fellow and has had tremendous success impacting public policy and discourse about reentry, police accountability, public defense for poor and indigent people, and reforming the notorious Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), also known as the Orleans Justice Center (OJC). In 2018, Norris served as the statewide campaign director for the Unanimous Jury Coalition, a ballot campaign that ended non-unanimous juries, and thus Jim Crow’s last stand in Louisiana. As someone who was wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years, Norris shares firsthand experience of racism and brutality of the criminal justice system with communities of color across Louisiana. He 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, Norris co-founded a hospice program and also drafted a successful parole reform law for Lifers. Norris regularly speaks publicly in support of underprivileged communities in New Orleans and acts as a general liaison to other community organizations in the city. Since his release in 2003 Norris has applied his 27 years of self-taught legal expertise and community organizing skills to a number of leadership positions, including Co-Director of Safe Streets/Strong Communities and Community Outreach Coordinator of the Louisiana Justice Coalition. Norris serves on a number of organizations’ Board of Directors, including Common Justice, and is a co-founder and steering committee member of the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Families Movement, and winner of numerous awards in the civil rights community.
Norris' concept that 'civic engagement is the highest form of rehabilitation' is something we can all believe in. VOTE puts the formerly incarcerated person right where they need to be: out in the community, participating in productive activities, educating, advocating and standing up for their rights.
—Deborah Larussi, www.sillsfamilyfoundation.org