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Empowering Change Through JPEN: Our Journey of Community and Connection

Wyatt: When I launched A Curiae, colleagues in various professions were gracious in referring me to different organizations and individuals who might be interested in the work we were doing. Carolina Echeverria from University of San Francisco (USF) referred me to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and the Jesuit Prison Education Network (JPEN), where I was introduced to Father Tom Curran. 

While we wove baseball references throughout our conversation, storytelling about our favorite players, we also instantly connected about the work and our mutual passion for effecting change in the reentry ecosystem through education. Father Tom was generous with his network of like-minded individuals and organizations and graciously offered an opportunity for us to join a commission sharing essays on prison education. 

Through monthly meetings that energized and influenced the approach of A Curiae, I collaborated with Stephen Asmus to develop the essay, Justice Reimagined: Community and the Power of Connection. 

Stephen: Wyatt and I began by identifying the core themes we wanted to address: the importance of community, connection, and systems in facilitating change within the criminal justice system. We divided the essay into two parts, each focusing on a different but complementary aspect of this theme. Wyatt emphasized how judges and court staff need connections with participants to inspire change, while I focused on the spiritual journey and the role of communal support in recovery. By brainstorming together, writing our sections independently, and then exchanging and refining our drafts, we ensured our individual perspectives complemented each other. This collaborative process highlighted the interconnectedness of the structural reforms and personal connections we believe drives meaningful change. 

By showcasing the synergy between community engagement and personal relationships, we aim to inspire further collaboration and commitment to creating a more humane and effective justice system. The justice system isn’t just about the person being sentenced; it affects the entire community, including staff and families. It requires a holistic approach. We hope this essay underscores the profound impact of community and connection in transforming the criminal justice system. 

Wyatt: In July 2024, I’ll be able to attend the symposium at Loyola Chicago to share and connect with fellow authors who are doing incredible work in the field of prison education from Jesuit universities across the country. Thank you to USF, AJCU, and JPEN for this opportunity! It’s been an amazing experience and an honor to work with passionate and committed professionals.

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