Photo courtesy of The Nation website
Introduction to the On Earth Peace community - Jennifer Weakland
Hello, my name is Jennifer Weakland, the Prison Justice Community of Practice organizing intern for On Earth Peace. My passion for this position stems from both my academic background as a Global Studies Major at Bridgewater College, and my values and faith background as a Quaker. I plan on centering my career on human rights advocacy and peaceful conflict resolution. This is partly influenced by my spiritual values such as community, equality, integrity, and peace. As a Quaker, I believe that there is the light of God in every person. Thus, people have a responsibility to safeguard the wellbeing of the community of humanity as they would safeguard their own wellbeing. Given the regular dehumanization of inmates subject to the US prison system, I believe that non-incarcerated people have a responsibility to advocate for their incarcerated community members. These passions and values drew me to this internship with On Earth Peace.
A very specific experience inspired me to pursue the Prison Justice Community of Practice Organizer position. As part of one of my college courses in 2017, I toured the local correctional facility, Middle River Regional Jail. I was moved by the different instances of dehumanizing treatment I witnessed, such as inmates diagnosed with mental illness being permanently held in solitary confinement. The corrections officer giving us the tour admitted these abuses to us freely, revealing a culture of impunity among correctional staff. Later research revealed to me that the jail had been sued for neglect in the past, due to instances of denying prisoners essential medication, and physically abusing prisoners that expressed grievances against this maltreatment. There seemed to be no recourse for prisoners seeking justice, while their agency and humanity was being actively suppressed by the punitive corrections system. In order to realize the humanity of those suffering from systemic dehumanization and improve conditions for the community of incarcerated people, I am committed to supporting and growing the prison justice community through On Earth Peace. I am excited to be a part of this community!