“I believe that winning back the right to vote is only the first step in restoring basic equality for all people.”

Leadership: Desmond Meade is president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), a group of more than 70 organizations and returning citizens dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement of people with criminal convictions. A returning citizen himself, Desmond was inspired to join FRRC after a life-changing experience led him to realize that his purpose in life was to serve others. His fight to expand voting rights for people with felony convictions intensified when he learned he could not vote for his wife, who was a candidate for the state legislature.

In 2018, Desmond led the FRCC to a historic victory with the passage of Amendment 4, a grassroots citizens’ initiative that restored voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his momentous work.

Vision: Desmond is working to decrease the number of people who are incarcerated, reduce recidivism, and provide real hope for the restoration of not just rights but also dignity for formerly incarcerated people. But the long-term goal of his work goes beyond ending disenfranchisement and discrimination against formerly incarcerated people—he hopes to fundamentally transform the criminal justice system itself.