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Operation New Hope participated in an amazing collaboration with Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and the Florida Department of Corrections through the donation of 12,000 masks to correctional officers and inmates.
Desmond Meade is the driving force behind Amendment 4, which restored the voting rights of people with prior felony convictions and was overwhelmingly supported by Florida voters. Florida is estimated to have 1,686,318 persons—10.43 percent of the voting age population—disenfranchised due to felonies. Using his powerful connections, driving around Florida in his colorful voting rights tour bus, Desmond Meade has been delivering supplies to people affected by COVID-19. He has provided tablets to nursing homes so seniors can virtually chat with their loved ones and has delivered 100s of meals to those in need. He is truly an inspiring individual! So much so, that he is one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019.
The FDC officers who greeted us at the Lake Butler Reception and Medical Center were so thankful for the donation. Public health experts correctly predicted that prisons and jails would become prime vectors of COVID-19 cases because of the inability of prisoners and staff to meaningfully practice “social distancing,” and due to lack of hygiene and medical supplies, like masks. The Prison Policy Initiative is tracking pandemic-related issues related to COVID-19 and the justice system.
Since the beginning of March, our Ready4Release team has been unable to provide valuable pre-release services to individuals behind the wall due to visitation restrictions at the prisons. That’s why we are so grateful to be able to provide some sort of assistance now with the delivery of these masks. We are also so thankful for Desmond’s generosity and willingness to address the public health crisis facing our prison’s staff and inmates. This donation of much needed masks was a great opportunity for us to build deeper connections with the Florida Department of Corrections and work with allies like Desmond Meade to affect change!