Last year, on September 19, 2007, I was released from the federal prison camp in Danbury, Connecticut, after completing my six-month sentence. As happy as I was to get turned loose onto an unsuspecting world, it was a sad experience, too. I had to leave behind friends, who had far longer sentences than I had.
Spending time in prison, especially when that time is measured in years, not in months that can be counted on one or two hands, is very hard on women. Many of them are mothers, and they must endure long separations from their children. The children grow up without their mothers, which is hard on them, too.
I believe that too many people are in prison. Keeping people in prison is expensive and nonproductive. I would very much like to see more people sentenced to probation and community service and restitution (if necessary) than to prison sentences. I would also like to see more use of restorative justice. It is important for people to take responsibility for their actions, to apologize, and make right what they have made wrong. Occupying space in prison does not accomplish any of that. So these are a few things that I have learned from my time in prison.
I have also learned that being in prison is challenging but it is an experience that the overwhelming majority survives. They then go on to other things and other adventures. I have also learned that going to prison for something that you believe in is somewhat difficult but far from impossible. I believe that change can occur when ordinary people, such as me, are willing to make sacrifices for the things that they believe in.
In two months, there will be another vigil at Fort Benning. Undoubtedly, some people will choose to cross the Fort Benning fence. Might you be one of them? Would you be one of those who chooses to take that step (literally) to say yes to life and human rights and no to torture and assassination? Or, if you prefer to travel to Arizona, rather than Georgia, might you take that step, instead, at Fort Huachuca?
And, speaking about steps, I have finished my 500-mile walk from Chicago to Saint Paul, Minnesota, with Witness Against War (see http://www.vcnv.org). It was a good experience, and I will write more extensively about it in later posts. Above is a photograph of me on the top of Brady's Bluff at Perrot State Park, in Trempealeau, Wisconsin. The upper Mississippi River is in the background.