Summer Centered: Sophia Wan ’23 Works in Solidarity for Prison Liberation
The anthropology major is working with the Abolitionist Law Center as a CPGC Philadelphia Justice and Equity fellow this year.
This summer, Sophia Wan ’23 is part of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship’s first cohort of Philadelphia Justice and Equity Fellows. Students in the new program have paid, full-time summer internships focusing on antiracism efforts at a partner organization in the Philadelphia region and continue work with the organization part-time during the following academic year.
Wan is interning with the Abolitionist Law Center, or ALC, a public interest law firm that works to abolish class- and race-based mass incarceration in the United States. Wan works frequently with the Human Rights Coalition, or HRC, because the two organizations work closely together. (She also works alongside fellow Ford Lulu Obaditch ’22, who is interning at HRC this year.)
Wan’s work has focused on ALC and HRC’s Solidarity Not Solitary campaign, a project dedicated to eradicating the use of solitary confinement in prisons. Wan has been raising money for their Solidarity Not Solitary Fund for people currently in or recently released from solitary.
“Solitary confinement subjects incarcerated people to extreme violence from COs [correctional officers] and unsanitary, isolating conditions that destroy their mental and physical health, but in a basic material sense, people’s possessions, clothing, and their access to commissary are stripped in addition to their humanity,” said the anthropology major and visual studies minor. “The fund is intended to help those on the inside regain essential items, cosmetics, comforts, or just give them a sense of hope. I’ve been strategizing with a small group to spread the word about the fund on the inside while also encouraging more people on the outside to contribute—hopefully consistently over time!”
Her work with the campaign also includes collaborating with other coalitions and organizers, coordinating visits with legislators, and organizing grassroots direct actions. For example, she attended a demonstration in support of the incarcerated people’s hunger strike at Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution - Phoenix.
“The internship has allowed me to experience how advocacy and learning should be done, by centering those who live in the actual conditions themselves—in this case, insiders, family, friends, and released comrades,” said Wan. “When planning events and actions, we go directly to those sources. I’ve stayed on long phone calls with folks on the inside and spoken to survivors, and those conversations directly determine ALC/HRC’s work. I hope to carry that methodology and intentionally relocate power back when I do research or ethnographic work as an anthropology major.”
Wan’s decision to work with ALC and HRC was inspired by involvement with Haverford’s Students for Abolition, Liberation, and Transformation, or SALT, and a restorative justice workshop with Let’s Circle Up inside SCI Phoenix. She decided her next step was getting involved with hands-on, long-term work to counter state violence and the carceral system.
“Reimagining a prison-less world together catalyzed much of my interest in the Black radical tradition and prison liberation movements, which ALC and HRC are very grounded in,” she said. “ALC and HRC’s embeddedness in Philly and surrounding movements also drew me in, as I was hoping to develop my relationship with the city through a liberation-forward and critical perspective.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-funded summer work.