"An unjust law is itself a species of violence, arrest for its breach is more so. Now the law of non-violence says that violence should be resisted. Not by counter-violence, but by non-violence... This I do by breaking the law and by peacefully submitting to arrest and imprisonment." Gandhi, II-150
The recent crop of prison-resisters, already behind bars, fences and lines in the sand, as well as those about to be so 'inconvenienced', is a healthy symptom for the growing condition of non-violent resistance to injustice, war, poverty, environmental destruction and, to that uniquely American sickness, nuclearism. The grounds are truly swelling with more and more people who have awakened, finally, to the lies spawned by those first two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 57 years ago. People of all demographics are on the march, ending up in county jails and Federal detention camps across this country, and all over the world.
The construction of more incarceration facilities both private and public, the increasing numbers of 'correctional officers' and the growing profit margins of the whole 'prison industrial complex' are all keeping apace. Prisons are business, and business is good!
With more folks going to prison and jails for the first time, especially now with the annual SOAWATCH march on Ft. Benning, in Columbus GA which just took place (Nov 16 is the 13th anniversary of the SOA massacre at UCA, San Salvador) I think a few words to the wise are in order. (I have 4 felonies and 4 misdemeanors and nearly 3 yrs time behind bars in this regard, and have seen a few things over the past 12 years.)
First of all, while prison witness is not for everyone, prison witnesses include those who support the folks behind bars.
Second, prison guards, as a whole, are not in place to see to our comforts & every need request, when we are under their 'care'. Most guards, in my experience, see their role to include punishment in the guise of "protection."
Third, jail & prison conditions vary from stir to stir, but roaches seem to be able to make their presence felt in every facility - at least in my experience, which includes 20-odd facilities.
Fourth, no jail or prison is on the Duncan Hines restaurant list of places not to be missed. Miss them all if you can, or get ready to do "serial fasting." (That does not mean giving up the Corn Flakes or whatever that gruel is sometimes.)
Fifth, once we've made our stellar appearances in court, been convicted and designated and processed into our homes away from homes, we are being watched. Not just by the watchers, who are paid handsomely to do so, but by our fellow inmates. These latter of course, are not there by choice, as we are. They got caught. We surrendered. But the guards, the 'correctional officers' don't care - they are "Equal Opportunity Oppressors." We're here to walk in their(our fellow inmates), shower thongs too, so to speak.
As Gandhi also wrote, "... unless you have nothing but brotherliness (and sisterliness) for those that despitefully use you , your resolution that you would stand by the principle of non-violence through thick and thin will have no meaning." I-243
Lest I come across as some self-righteous prig, I hasten to add that I have hardly begun to adopt the mantle of a Gandhi/Christian non-violent resister. Maybe this time round I'll plumb the depths of understanding - comprehending - what it means to reach "Satyagraha" or "the new man" in Christian terms. Please pray for me.
I only offer these obvious observations by way of sharing something I most recently heard while being processed in that epitome of terrible dungeons - the Muscogee County Jail - for the third time since 1990. It hadn't improved a wink, a whit, a whatever.
No less than the doctor, in the course of his perfunctory exam, felt free to let me know, since I was "another SOA protester", that the "recent bunch who came through here were dirty, rude, insulting, non-cooperative...." And, he went on, "... I understand they received college credit for coming down here and carrying on, insulting the people of Columbus..."
Well, I never!
I wasn't there, so I couldn't speak to his specifics, some of which are not worth repeating, and, which I'll never understand how he came up with his observations! - But I chalked it all up to the exuberance of youth, feeling every one of my almost 63 years of age. (Hell, I'm younger than half the people who are either in jail now or have been for resisting the SOA!)
I'll end with one more bon mot from our beloved loin-clothed paradigm:
"The principle of non-violence calls for the strength and courage to suffer without retaliation, to receive blows without returning any, but that does not exhaust its meaning. Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly." Gandhi, II-57
Our arguments are largely lost on the judges who process us through the great "meatgrinder" which is the, indeed Criminal, Justice System. (On a rare occasion a jury gets hung up, as in the marvelous case of the recent April 22 non-violent action in D.C. See WRL Sept.Oct.02)
But, like the Christians of old, we are being watched, and judged, by "how we love one another." Our "anothers" are not just our like-minded and strong spirited co-defendants, but include all our fellow inmates, and, our own hired 'watchers'. This is how our non-violence can reach epidemic proportions. Forgive me, maybe jail has jaded me.
John Patrick Liteky, #83275-020, Cell C-3
Crisp Co. Jail - 197 Hwy 300 S - Cordele, GA 31015