Jason “Jay” Cook, 41, has been out of prison for only a few weeks. However, he has already put $1,000 from settlement check he received from the Rhode Island Department of Corrections — from an ACLU lawsuit over the prison’s mail policies — to use for a good cause.
Cook has been in trouble with the law since he was 18 and was imprisoned over domestic and felony assault charges. He told WPRI news:
“I did the crimes. I paid the price for it. I’m just trying not to go back. I broke into people’s houses. I’ve stolen vehicles. I’ve done everything. This is my best possible way to stay straight.”
The former criminal spends several hours one day per week to make sandwiches for bag lunches, which he takes with him on a bus to Burnside Park in Providence. Once he arrives, Cook begins giving away the bag lunches to veterans and homeless people as part of his project called Feed RI Homeless.
While in prison, Cook often sought justice by standing up for others. A federal lawsuit was filed in 2009 by the ACLU when Cook accused correctional officers of harassing him after he complained about the prison’s mail policies. He told WPRI:
“I was pretty much like a prison activist. Whenever I saw something wrong. I tried to help guys out and tried to right it.”
A GoFundMe page and Facebook community page has been set up to help Cook in his charitable efforts. His project has also touched others to do their part in helping. Sponsors including Central Avenue Bakery, 3 Flags Bakery, A Taste of Europe and Andella’s Boulevard Meats collaborate with Cook to make his mission possible. Cook said of the outpouring of support:
“I know I can make a difference with some help.”