Jess was born in Wellington and is of Polish and English descent. She has her own experience of both incarceration and addiction. After leaving prison at the age of 29 years, Jess embarked on studying a degree in Criminology at the University of Auckland. Today Jess celebrates 9.5 years clean and graduated with her degree accompanied by nine top of the class awards and a deans honours award. After leaving school early, Jess had largely given up on her dreams of studying and helping others. But that all changed when she found her pathway to recovery from addiction. Jess enjoys yoga and meditation and in the past taught classes to participants of Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua (The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts). She loves music (especially hard rock, rockabilly, psychobilly art), exploring spirituality, laughing to comedy and all things puppies and bunnies!
Jess is passionate about collaborating on social justice projects. She has worked for the disabled citizen society as an educator and was project coordinator for Justspeak’s exhibition Kōrero Pono containing portraits and stories from whānau with lived experience of incarceration. Jess found it inspiring to act as a storyteller for this latter project, especially experiencing the process of giving voice to others. Jess has her own story as part of this exhibition and we have featured the artwork by Xoe Hall that accompanied it above. You can see the stories and magnificent artwork at https://www.justspeak.org.nz/koreropono.
In He Ture Kia Tika Jess is supporting the rōpū as a research assistant, helping to tell more stories from whānau who have experience incarceration, mental distress and addiction. So far, Jess has found the collective energy that drives the project uplifting, and believes the project will make a difference to the criminal justice system.