Name: Jessica Means
What city and state do you live in?: Tacoma, WA
Describe your current work/workplace: I hold multiple jobs centered around helping women impacted by the criminal punishment system. I am the co-director of New Connections, a re-entry shelter program for women who face homelessness after incarceration, an Ombudsman for The Office of Corrections Ombuds (OCO), an independent state agency providing oversight of the Department of Corrections in Washington State. I also am the co-owner of a small business, Monarch Consulting LLC, whose mission is to empower women and their families in our local community through education, advocacy and healing. My journey to do this work began with my own involvement in the criminal punishment system and having to navigate a world full of barriers post incarceration. Two things that I noticed while sitting in jail pretrial for almost 9 months because I could not afford bail was that everything we are taught in school and through media about the criminal system is inherently false and women, as the fastest growing demographic of incarcerated people, are often left behind. In my own situation, no amount of prison time was going to heal my traumas, it wasn't prison that I needed. Like me, many women never get the chance to find space where we are not rejected, not abused and hurt, not oppressed for our nature, but rather, we are bonded and uplifted. Our self esteem, confidence and worth in our communities needs to be able to grow and flourish safely. Doing work in three dominant areas under the umbrella of mass incarceration - pretrial revision, prison oversight and reform and re-entry is a channel in which I can have agency in reimagining my community. It is the space where I found community and I aim to continue to create and grow a network for women.
What made you want to join CLI?: My best friend and business partner shared her journey in CLI with me and I felt nothing short of inspired to continue to be creative, innovative, driven and brave enough to strive for meaningful justice for women. I am confident what I learn from this fellowship will be beneficial to this mission.
What are you most looking forward to as a part of CLI?: I am looking forward to connecting with other women who seek to learn, to grow, and share our passion for creating innovative solutions to systems that damage us.
What do you wish people knew about women who are incarcerated/formerly incarcerated/their families?: I wish people knew how unnecessary, unsafe, traumatic and damaging incarceration is/can be for women. Punishment that never truly ends is not the best solution our society can come up with in order to stop someone from the destruction they may be doing, or accused of doing, to themselves, their families and their communities. I wish the totality of how incarceration makes our communities less safe was greater understood - thinking beyond arrest. How are we all actually impacted?
Who is your biggest supporter?: My family, friends, and colleagues all support me in unique ways. This creates and well rounded system of support to meet my different needs in different times.
What is your favorite form of self-care?: My favorite form of self-care is to travel and explore new areas. This allows me time to disconnect from work and reconnect to my spirit.