The latest in our installment of the Tuesday's Focus series looks at the story of Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins. In addition to being involved with The Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing, Jennifer serves on the Board of Directors both for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and for our affiliate, Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights.
Here is Jennifer's story:
Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins’ sister Nancy Bishop Langert was shot to death along with her husband, Richard Langert, and their unborn child in suburban Chicago in 1990. Their killer was 16 years old at the time and a local politician running for re-election proposed lowering the age of death penalty eligibility in Illinois to 16 to “honor your sister.”
Jennifer vowed to oppose him publicly if her sister’s murder was used as the rationale for this proposal. “Nancy loved children and this is not what she would have wanted,” she says. Since that time she has worked to end the death penalty both in Illinois and nationwide.
She serves on the board of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, is the state president for the Million Mom March /Brady Campaign and volunteers with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. She was a featured speaker on the steps of the U.S. Capital for the Halt the Assault Million Mom March on Mother’s Day 2004.
She has testified before the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment and in death penalty clemency hearings before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. She has spoken before state legislative committees and the Chicago City Council on issues of gun violence, crime prevention, and criminal justice reform.
She appeared in the documentary on the death penalty, “Too Flawed To Fix” and was profiled in a Chicago Tribune Magazine cover story. Her story and abolition work are included in the book Don’t Kill In Our Names by Rachel King. Jennifer, who first visited Illinois’ death row in 1994, is on a mercy committee for former death row inmate Renaldo Hudson. She wrote the foreword for the recently published book of prisoners’ essays on personal responsibility and transformation entitled Lockdown Prison Heart.
Jennifer and her sister, Jeanne Bishop, were co-recipients of the Brigid Award given by Concern Worldwide in recognition of their reconciliation work. She has taught high school and college for more than 20 years and has received several outstanding teacher awards. She is the Field Director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for Illinois and Minnesota.
Links to Jennifer ’s Journey:
Not in Our Name: by Rachel King
A Long Healing Process -- Murder victims' families describe their struggle to rebuild lives, By Stephen Gawlik
The Million Mom March - working against gun violence
A Peace Conference: Giving Witness to Non-Violence: Saturday Morning
Speakers Examine Death Penalty
Lecture on Death Penalty Sparks Contemplation
Victim Impact Teaches Juvenile Offenders Consequences of Their Actions
The Choices Program
Mamie Till Mobley, Mother of Lynched Teen Obituary
Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins Quotes:
"Our sister Nancy and her husband Richard were a young couple expecting their first child when they were shot to death in their home. They loved and valued life; our sister was carrying life within her when she died a terrifying and brutal death. Her last act as she was dying was to write a message of love in her blood. We can’t imagine making the death of another human being her memorial."