Jail Reflections

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March, 2019 Letter from Mark Colville from the Glynn Co. Jail

Dear Friends,

Greetings and hugs all around! With a grateful heart I commend all who continue to make the sacrifices necessary to keep our doors at the Amistad Catholic Worker open, the kitchen warm, and the table set,especially during these harsh months and under the added strain of my extended absence. For sometime now, I’ve hesitated to check in from here in Georgia before being able to offer a bit of clarity with regard to the legal situation of the Kings Bay Plowshares in Brunswick Federal Court. But with delays encroaching now into Spring, and still no action being taken by the magistrate judge on our pretrial motions, a brief update has become increasingly overdue.

Actually, what has been most on my heart these past three months is a deep sense of responsibility to speak about this jail where I’ve been warehoused now for the better part of a year. It is labeled a detention center,” so-called because the people being kept here have been arrested but have not yet had their cases adjudicated. Considered a temporary holding facility, its conditions and amenities are suited to accommodate the accused for a a few weeks or a month at most, irrespective of the reality that – for reasons I’ll explain in a moment – half a year or more is closer to the average length of stay. This means that all the detained, most of who are suspected of low-level or nonviolent offenses, are held in maximum security conditions for months, and in some cases, years on end. We are locked down on crowded cellblocks, essentially for 24 hours a day. The diet is heavy on starch, sugar and sodium, which rapidly foster obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease when combined with a sedentary lifestyle. (I’ve witnessed three people having strokes, and one man I knew died of heart failure in his cell late last summer). There is no access to the outdoors nor to physical recreation of any kind; no exercise permitted outside of one’s cell; no visits with loved ones except by video monitor; no use of a library, computer or internet. It also seems to be common knowledge that we are sitting on top of a toxic waste dump, but I have neither the means nor the fortitude to investigate that particular report.

As for the 400 to 500 detainees here, most are in the same predicament as Liz, Steve and I, being held indefinitely with their cases pending. Several systemic factors conspire to make this so.Bail is generally set extremely high, unaffordably so for many, although this can sometimes be remedied at a bail reduction hearing after at least six weeks have passed. The bigger issue, though, is what’s referred to as the “probation hold.” In Glynn County, persons arrested for any reason while on probation can be jailed for renewable terms of up to 60 days, and simply forced to wait until a probation violation hearing is scheduled. As anyone who’s had the experience knows, virtually any encounter with a police officer on probation can result in an arrest, regardless of probable cause or the likelihood of an infraction being provable in court . Merely being on probation is reason enough.

Practically speaking, lengthy probation terms usually have little to do with supervision,rehabilitation or public safety. They have plenty to do with funneling people back through the criminal justice industrial complex, which seems to be a significant source of revenue and employment in municipalities like this one. Convictions in the Brunswick court, 90 percent of which are obtained by plea bargain, commonly bring sentences which include probation terms of between 3 and 20 years! The prisoners here call it being “on paper.” Once they are on a probation hold, an investigation of the newly-alleged crime can proceed, or not, at the leisure of the D.A.’s office, Of course, whether or not they find evidence, the living conditions at the detention center will usually provide ample coercive power to secure another conviction. Obviously, after 60 or 120 or 180 days of 24-hour lockdown, almost anyone is well-disposed to accept whatever plea will result in an immediate release, even if it means being on paper for another decade. This, there is ensured an endless supply of indefinite detainees at the Glynn County Detention Center, and their demographic won’t surprise anyone; at present, I am one of three white people in a cell block of thirty-four.

From the inside, I find the real horror of all this in its utter normalcy. Sometimes it takes a rigorous act of the will to maintain a personal relationship with reality. I’m living in a place where hundreds of people accused of low-level and/or nonviolent crimes are being held indefinitely, under maximum security conditions, having neither been granted due process, nor convicted nor sentenced. The presumption of innocence is, quite literally, a punchline. The totalitarian culture of coercion that dictates every aspect of life in a maximum security jail has essentially chewed up and swallowed the “justice system” here, such that it is not honestly possible to even use that term without the disclaimer of quotation marks. Broken families bear a terrible burden, some driven from poverty into destitution. The racial bias could hardly be more obvious. Yet it all seems to function well beyond significant public notice, much less any questions of morality, necessity or service to the public good.

Of late, I’ve grown convinced that it couldn’t be more fitting for the Kings Bay Plowshares to have been swept up and tossed into a human dumpster such as this. The racket they run here gives real substance, on the neighborhood level, to what U.S. nuclear policy – our national religion – has been preaching to every child born on the planet for the last seventy-five years: No Lives Matter. However long it might draw out, I hope that my incarceration here will in some way speak this truth. The idols we named at Kings Bay are not sleeping. They demand sacrifice. The god of the national security state feasts on the blood of the poor.

“The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., March, 1968

Yes, indeed.

– Mark Colville

[As of this writing, the Kings Bay Plowshares have been waiting many months for a ruling from magistrate Judge Benjamin Cheesbro on a pre-trial argument they have placed before the court. The essence of their position is that a jury should be allowed to hear and consider the principles of faith and conscience that informed their action at Kings Bay, and that the government has acted improperly by filing criminal charges against them. For a transcript of Mark’s testimony at the pre-trial hearing, click here. The seven were arrested on April 5, 2018.]


6/26/2018 Rattling My Cage (Some thoughts on our upcoming trial)  by Mark Colville


One of the blessings that has flowed in abundance during this time of incarceration is recollectedness – a mental and spiritual focus which I often find difficult to access with any consistency “out there in minimum security” (which seems an increasingly apt description of U.S. society these days). To repeat something mentioned in a previous posting, a jail cell can be very effective at stripping away the illusions and delusions about what defines me, what sustains me, and what locates me in the world. It's more than a radicalization of thought and conscience that becomes prominent (and hopefully permanent) when viewing the world from the perspective of the bottom. On a more fundamental level, with time there comes the possibility of a kind of rebooting of the self, as the desert does its work on the ego which can so easily impede the work of the Holy Spirit in a habitually unrecollected soul such as mine. The notion of discipleship in a culture of death gradually shifts from the realm of spiritual aspiration to a deeply felt invitation to move from here to there. As Jim Douglass explains in his classic work Resistance and Contemplation: “In contemplating prison consequences which may be measured not so much in days and weeks as in months and years, I must confront the reality of prison not as an interlude in a white middle-class existence, but as a stage of the Way redefining my life.” This is the well I have been drinking more thirstily from as the weeks have turned to months; I must remember to thank the U.S. District Court of Brunswick County for its obvious devotion to my spiritual health!

Of course, the government is also doing its work this summer, and we mustn't harbor any illusions or delusions about what that means, either. Sometime during the next forty-five days, while I'm eating baloney sandwiches and gazing at my radicalized, recollected navel, some paralegal in the U.S. Attorney's office will be earning his or her keep by meticulously following a set of instructions handed down from on high. Those instructions will amount to the government playing what is essentially the only card it will have when this case finally finds a jury. She or he will file a pre-packaged, tried-and-true bundle of “motions in limine” which, when rubber-stamped without any real consideration by Magistrate R. Stan Baker, will set aside the Constitution and thereby place nuclear weapons and the criminal intent to use them beyond the reach of the law.

Quick disclaimer: I am not a student of the law, just a victim of its application. With all due respect to my lawyer and dear friend Matt Daloisio, I have neither the capacity nor nor the inclination to exchange my current headaches for his. Therefore, while my compromised position and previous experience with these legal dynamics might grant a certain authority from which to speak, the conclusions I draw should properly be subjected to whatever scrutiny or skepticism one may wish to apply. In that regard, I'd recommend as a starting point a excellent article by John LaForge in the March, 2018 issue of The Nuclear Resister: “U.S. Appeals Courts agree: facts about nuclear weapons can be kept from juries in protest trials” (p. 10). With that said, here is my understanding: the way motions in limine are designed, and the purpose for which they are normally used, is to protect the accused as much as possible from any pre-conceived bias on the part of a jury. For example, a person on trial for armed robbery would be severely compromised if they jury was permitted to hear of a prior conviction on a similar charge. Therefore, a competent defense attorney would, as a matter of course, file a motion to limit, or even exclude, the presentation of any evidence alluding to her client's criminal history.

What the government has been allowed to do in Plowshares trials is to turn the protection afforded the accused by motions in limine on its head. Here, the accuser gets to claim to be the party subject to potential harm if evidence of its past, current or ongoing criminal activity is put before the jury, even if such evidence is constitutionally permissible and absolutely relevant to the defence of the accused.

[Excuse me for a moment while I take a few cleansing breaths and try to comprehend the absurdity of that last paragraph...Okay, never mind. Where was I? Oh, yes...]

Thus awarded the status of one exposed to harm before the jury, despite the fact that it does not stand accused of anything by the court, the government is then free to petition for the evisceration of our entire defense, keeping the jury in a perpetual state of enforced ignorance of the law, and the judge virtually always cooperates. It's basically the juridical equivalent of wild animals eating their young. Quoting again from John LaForge:

“In view of the poisonous, indiscriminate, long term and uncontrollable effects of nuclear weapons, military and international treaty law can be interpreted as having already prohibited them...yet federal courts cannot tolerate any airing of these facts – which might prove that the Bomb is unlawful – and the 'supreme law' can't be allowed within a jury's earshot. To protect the Bomb from legal scrutiny, federal judges have created a legal vacuum...”

This “legal vacuum” extends to forbid any challenge to the official nuclear policy of deterrence, which could fairly persuasively be argued to constitute criminal behavior in the form of a public terrorist threat. Most significant, in terms of our (extremely relevant) motivation and intent, will be the exclusion of the clear requirements found in the Geneva Conventions and Nuremberg Principles, as well as the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force Field Manuals, which speak to the right and obligations of citizens to resist the commission of war crimes by their government. In a real and terrible sense, the federal courts have become a functional mirror image of the psychopathy of the Pentagon.

During the course of many months' discernment for this journey of the Kings Bay Plowshares, I can recall Steve having urged us all repeatedly to view any potential trial as a second action, and to ready ourselves to approach it as such.nAt the motions hearing in early August, where the government's powers of coercion will be on full display, that second action will begin. In a figurative, but no less truthful way, we must be prepared to take the same hammers and blood that exposed the dark terror and idolatry at Kings Bay, and wield them forcefully against an equally impenetrable edifice of legalized blasphemy. Our power to do this will never be found in a judge's ruling or a clever legal argument, but only in our freedom to embrace this as a prophetic moment, and to be embraced by whatever it is that God is trying to do.

After all, the very history of this place calls us forward. The very cultre of this place still bears the scars from a time when the people's was similarly beholden to a diabolical industry considered absolutely essential to the nation's survival, security and economic health, blessed or ignored in its churches, and any resistance to which was mercilessly criminalized. Slavery's “virtue” was affirmed in these same courts, especially in Georgia, by an impenetrable edifice of lies, which among its abominations exalted property rights above the Constitution and regarded an African as “legally” three fifths of a person. Certainly, then, we can beg our ancestors' intercession, that we might receive a portion of the same spirit that embraced them as they stood accused, without defense, and were preemptively convicted of teaching a sister to read or helping a brother escape. Such a gift would be far more precious than any argument a judge might allow us to make.

For my part, it is the advice of Martha's grandmother that will continue to sustain this witness, no matter where it leads or what impossibilities await. As Dorothy Day told us years ago (and here I am paraphrasing): Do the work that comes to hand. Whatever the work that comes to your hand, do it joyfully, with all your heart. And if God wants it to prosper, it will.

This is the work that has come to my hand. It is nothing more, and nothing less, than simply taking responsibility for what I know to be true. And I will continue to do it with a full heart, and with all the joy I can find, rejoicing that I am no longer capable of exchanging the real walls of a prison for the minimum security that would be the reward for my silence.

5/24/2018 Sunday, Post Cards to Bodhi, No. 2 By Mark Colville

Luke 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
"No. He will be called John."

But they answered her,
"There is no one among your relatives who has this name."
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name,"
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
"What, then, will this child be?"
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.

The Church observes the Nativity of John the Baptist as a Solemnity, which is to say that it is something less than a major Feast, and at first glance, it is not hard to see why. John's birth isn't even mentioned in any of the Gospels, except for Luke, and even there it reads like a briefly noted undercard to the main event, the birth of Christ. Most scholars would probably conjecture that this is because the early Church didn't want there to be any confusion (which means that there probably was) about Jesus being the central figure of human history and foundation of our faith.

But the birth of John the Baptist is the starting point of that faith. It is the announcement of the New Testament age, no less than the first fulfillment of the promise spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation: Nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke1:37). Heard in the context of empire and occupation into which both John and Jesus were born, that promise must be properly understood to have served notice that the boundaries of possibility imposed by the dominant system were about to no longer apply.

In our own context of empire, it might justly be asked of those who profess a New Testament faith: “Is there anyone left in your churches with any inclination to embrace the impossible, or to stake anything substantive on shrinking its scope?” After all, is that not precisely what we are called to do by the first two models of faith that the New Testament presents? While our contemporary understandings of personal maturity, psychological health, and eben sane politics are commonly considered inseperable from an adjustment to what is real and possible, Zechariah and Mary were obliged to cast aside their questions – “How shall I know this?” “How can this be?” – and to begin to shape their lives around the absurd and the impossible.

Personally, I've become convinced that, in the post-9/11 age, Christian faith and practice in the United States are superfluous and irrelevant, if not actually a capitulation to the demonic, without this

maladjustment to “reality” and “possibility.” As our national crisis deepens, there's a growing realization that the government and electoral politics of this country have been taken over by a particularly toxic strain of evangelicalism which despises ecology, sanctifies extreme personal wealth while demonizing the poor, assumes the ideology of American exceptionalism as an article of faith, and welcomes the prospect of nuclear annihilation as heralding the Second Coming of Christ. This agenda and its devotees are no longer a fringe element. They have become the dominant political force, as brilliantly exposed in Chris Hedges” book, American Fascism, published a decade ago. Essentially, then, the public face of Christianity has become widely recognized as beholden to principles antithetical to the teachings and example of Christ.To the extent that we fail to resist this movment and the grievous harm it wreaks, both in our communities and out collective conscience,we stipulate to a worldview so infected with fear and hopelessness that it renders the practice of the Sermon on the Mount impossible. Ultimately, it was this realization that made my decision to join with the Kings Bay Plowshares inevitable.

The great Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, speaking and writing in the first half of the 20th century, said that we were moving into a time when the question of faith would no longer be answered by whether one believes or does not believe in God, but by whether one believes or does not believe in the future of the world. How eerily prophetic those words have become for Christians in the United States as we grapple with possibilities and impossibilities, and discern the demands of the time.


5/17/2018  Sunday,  Postcards to Bodhi, No. 1 by Mark Colville

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said, 'The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.' He also said, 'With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.' With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

There's a consolation that flows from this parable, “the seed grows of itself,” that I'd not found before.
Day to day life here is dominated by the experience and the effects of scattering. The collective that makes up this cellblock – any cellblock – is just about as far from an intentional community as
could be imagined. Everyone here has been torn up by the roots, violently and unwillingly, from his community of choice. We've been cast together, literally on top of one another, haphazardly. The only intentionality apparent in how we've been assembled by the jailer (the farmer?) is in the separating of friends and co-defendants. It might be argued, or even assumed, that the randomness is specifically intended to prevent the possibility of healthy community living. For the past 45 years, no nation has invested itself in the prison industry with the vengeance of
the United States. Not only does the per capita size of our prison population dwarf those of other countries, but we have developed the incarceration project into a finely tuned experiment in anti-
community. The prison staff here, typical of thousands nationwide, are highly trained in managing our dysfunction, but completely unequipped to deal with anything substantive within these walls that might resemble unity, mutual empowerment, or even rehabilitation. They are so skilled at anticipating and
responding to our violence that the promotion of an agenda that fosters it is a foregone conclusion. And yet, irrepressibly, community happens. The Rastafarian plays chess with the Aryan
Brotherhood guy. The violent misogynist and the peace activist read scripture together, praying from the heart. The Mexican awaiting deportation draws an incredible orchid in blue pen on a postcard for the gringo to send home to his wife, and politely refuses anything in return. Food changes hands at meals; one homesick guy gives his place in line at the phone to another; the old man held here for over a year without bail rejoices with the twenty-something who expects to get to a halfway house this
We are seeds, scattered. Nothing good is supposed to grow here – that's against policy. When it happens – and wherever they've tossed me, it always happens – they inevitably dig it up and scatter it again. And we sleep and rise, night and day, and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, they know not how.
There's a sign that keeps appearing at immigrant's rights marches back in New Haven. I think I saw it first with the families of the disappeared students in Mexico:
“They thought they buried us. They didn't know that we were seeds.”


5/30/2018 Reflection of Gratitude by Clare Grady from the Glynn County Detention Facility

Every day I wake up in jail I give thanks. I am grateful to be alive, grateful for every day I wake; able to see, to hear, to walk, to smile, laugh, cry, sing. I give thanks for every meal I receive, every cup of water I drink. I have cried with gratitude with my ability to make phone calls to my children, to hear their voices. I give thanks for the faith community that I am part of and the journey that brought us to seek disarmament at Kings Bay. The seven of us Kings Bay Plowshares have shared a practice of reading the daily Catholic Mass Readings whenever we have gathered. Since being in jail, it has been a lifesaver to have Bibles, though it was surprising how much effort it took and how long it took to get them. While in Camden County Jail, Liz, Martha and I shared a small cell. We knew how lucky--blessed- - we were to be together and to share daily Bible readings, reflection and prayer. Here in Brunswick at the GCD Ctr. I have been separated from Liz and Martha, but in Pod C-1 where I live, there is no shortage of women to share Bible with. Every day I am joined by or invited by others to join in at least 1, 2, or 3 prayer circles where we share Bible readings and inspired prayers and songs (when the spirit calls it up). We encourage one another, learning from one another and seeking to learn more about How this WORD OF GOD, has everything to do with our well-being, our salvation and our liberation.~ 


5/29/2018  Clare's reflection from the Glynn County Detention Facility

5/29/18 I am especially grateful for today's Gospel reading. I feel that I have been living it and I want to share my experience, strength, and hope...MK 10:28-31: Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you: Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has
given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.”

I have heard these lines my whole life, but in preparing for the Kings Bay Plowshares Action, this giving up became very, very real. It was not an abstraction—I had to “get my affairs in order.” THE most agonizing part of “giving up” ” was preparing to leave my children, even though they are grown. I found it unbearable to think that I might never see them again. What kind of mother would consciously make that choice— asked a voice in my head. I remember opening my Bible one night to look at this very passage from Mark's Good News. Needless to say, I was not comforted to find children on the list. More than once I prayed that this cup would pass me by. My wish was and is to live, to live in Peace.”

Best case scenario I would face arrest, jail, courts, trial and possible conviction and prison—all of which turn my guts.
Along with all this was the constant question I asked myself: “What is God's will?” I received some help with discernment in our group process but the question never left me—up
until the action—the whole time I took one step at a time. And then I experienced PEACE, the night of the action—with 7 of us walking under the stars in the night sky—walking
til we parted to go our different routes for different parts of the action. This Peace carried me through the action, arrest, Camden County Jail (as awful as it was) It is fair to say that I recognize that I am right where I need to be where God has led so many parts of my life to lead here—my family, my faith, my politics, my recovery: it all comes together here.

When I read the last line of today's Good News, I am reminded that some recent great thinkers use those Bible words from 2,000 years ago, to sum up the process of decolonization*. That sounds right to me...Along with the words, “Widen the Prison Gates.”** Let me know what you think. It will have to be in writing on a small white postcard w/blue ink—with my jail ID #015632 and my pod and cell and bunk info (C-107-B) and it might get through and I will respond with another small white postcard.
(* see Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth(p. 36): In decolonization, there is, therefore, the need of a complete calling in question of the colonial situation. If we wish to describe it precisely, we might find it in the well-known words: "The last shall be first and the first last." Decolonization is the putting into practice of this sentence. That is why, if we try to describe it, all decolonization is successful.
** title of a 1973 book by Phillip Berrigan, taken from a quote by Gandhi: “We must widen the prison gates and we must enter them as a bridegroom enters the bride's chamber. Freedom is to be wooed only inside prison walls and sometimes on gallows.” The Wit and Wisdom of Gandhi, p. 94.) 


5/23/2018 A reflection by Martha Hennessy written just before her release from Glynn county jail:

“In southern Georgia it is nearing the end of May and we are approaching the eighth week of incarceration at Camden and Glynn Count jails, following the Kings Bay Plowshares action. I am reading Thomas Merton’s introduction to Alfred Delp’s book “Prison Writings”. Merton writes this piece in 1963, eighteen years after the Nazis executed Delp, a Jesuit priest. “The urgent need for courage to face the truth of untruth, the cataclysmic presence of an apocalyptic lie that is at work not only in this or that nation, this or that party, this or that race, but in all of us everywhere.” Then he goes on to quote Delp, “These are not matters that can be postponed to suit our convenience. They call for immediate action because untruth is both dangerous and destructive. It has already rent our souls, destroyed our people, laid waste our land and our cities; it has already caused our generation to bleed to death.” These words were written 73 years ago in a Berlin prison as Germany was loosing WW II in the spring of 1945. The country was decimated.

Now, how much further have we trod down this path of violent passion for an ever-increasing diabolical capacity for making use of science and technology in the service of war? The trauma of both world wars remains with us to this day, and we add to it.
After Germany’s defeat the United States recruited many of Hitler’s scientists and doctors, war criminals among them. This allowed us to continue building on an insane vision of racist world dominance.

I sit in this tomb-like concrete cell following our nonviolent, symbolic action of April 4th while large numbers of nuclear warheads rest in concrete bunkers 30 minutes away at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. I wonder if I have I been sent here by God’s grace despite my limitations and helplessness, essentially buried alive for the time being. Delp did die for his Church, the judge who condemned him personally hated the Jesuits. Merton also sights in his introduction of Delp’s book, the concerns of South African Bishop Hurley of Durban, of a failure on the part of the clergy, an inability to assist the laity while in such desperate need during times of modern warfare. Now, in the 21st century we continue to possess a deadly nuclear arsenal while our amoral leadership calls for nuclear war on small countries such as Korea and Iran. These are countries that we have destroyed and meddled with in the past, a history we pretend to forget. The Trump administration’s recent Nuclear Posture Review is attempting to make it easier to launch these weapons of utter omnicide. We see our young generation lying bleeding or dying either on our streets, in our prisons, or within or after serving in our military. Those unfortunate enough to be drawn into these so-called institutions struggle to live, raise families, complete their educations, and envision a future that is all but held hostage by climate disruption, drug addiction, and a permanent war economy. Yet in the face of all this we as Christians are always called to comfort ourselves and comfort each other. Here in jail the drug epidemic and war at home leaves young mothers weeping in despair, faces shattered, souls desolate. And yet, living in community and extremity like this, there still remains humor and a spirit to defy the overwhelming forces that destroy lives through addiction, racism, and violence. The Southern Baptist tradition (like all too many of us) avoids any meaningful scrutiny of systemic evil, readily laying blame on the shoulders of individual victims of our culture. The religious ministry to the inmates is minimal and superficial, just at moments in people’s lives when they feel God’s presence in their pain, and yearn for change and salvation. The stories of military families suffering similar fates of trauma are prevalent here as well; in the end none of us are spared.

It is a curious thing, locking people up with very little to do and without restorative justice. The women adapt as best they can, performing self-care tasks, cleaning, socializing, and engaging in many normal aspects of life despite the deprivation. It is a gift to watch them braid each other’s hair, or simply sit and share stories. My own faith journey expands under these conditions even as I feel homesick and also knowing that we will be standing in two courts. A trial will be put on, one that is a process only, little to do with justice or reality. There is a critical necessity to avoid causing or taking hardened positions as we walk through this Plowshares experience. Exposing the sin of holding the world nuclear hostage and our mad participation in it is what we pray to change.”


5/6/2018 Who Should Be Indicted by Martha Hennessy on the Federal Indictment from the Camden County Detention Facility

The production and maintenance of nuclear weapons are a conspiracy to create unparalleled omnicidal weapons that violate national and international law. The production and maintenance of nuclear weapons trespasses on sacred Earth through global domination and unleashing illegal wars on small countries. The production and maintenance of nuclear weapons constitutes the depredation of air, soil, and water in the manufacture of Trident nuclear weapons system. The production and maintenance of nuclear weapons leads to the destruction of people and property with intent to harm whole countries and cities, while the United States infrastructure remains in disrepair.


5/5/2018 Who Should Be Indicted?
By Liz McAlister from the Camden County Detention Facility

Our country bound itself in 1945 to the UN Charter which rendered nuclear weapons systems criminal by its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war.” It further directed that “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.” Our country bound itself in 1945 the Nuremburg Principles which prohibit crimes against the peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. The Nuremburg Principles thus render nuclear weapons illegal and criminal under all circumstances. Our country bound itself in 1970 by the Non Proliferation Treaty which seeks the “cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament.” Our country is further bound by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996 which bans nuclear explosions and the production of fissile material for weapons.
The work being done with nuclear weapons at Kings Bay violates all these laws and higher moral laws and is thus a great crime. We acted to expose this criminality and withdraw our consent to participate in the crime of the production and maintainence of nuclear weapons.



Once again, a federal court has plainly identified itself as another hall of the Pentagon by turning a blind eye to the criminal and murderous enterprise from which the Pentagon has repeatedly refused to desist for the past 73 years. According to international and constitutional law, both of which are binding and superceding law in all U.S. jurisdictions, the building and possession of first-strike nuclear weapons is a crime. Yet, apparently the U.S. District Court in Brunswick is content to let impunity and immunity reign supreme for those who would hold all of humanity hostage by terroristic threat, choosing instead to criminalize the right and duty of nonviolent resistance.

The destructive capacity of the D-5 missiles fitted for the six Trident submarines home-ported at Kings Bay is enough to kill an estimate of more than six billion people.* What the U.S. Attorney’s office asserts by the charges it brings today, and the charges it fails to bring, is that the genocide unleashed by the launching of those weapons will be a legally sanctioned event.

As a conscientious citizen of this planet, I refuse to accept the legitimacy of such a court, and I am proud to stand accused by it. In a spirit of hope and solidarity, then, I invite all who dare to dream with us of a future without a nuclear gun held to the heads of all our children, to stand in vigil with the Kings Bay Plowshares.

* data provided by nukewatchinfo.org/


4/30/18 Reflection from the Camden County Detention Facility, by Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., Kings Bay Plowshares

"Do you swear/affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you [God]?", Dennis Apel was asked as he took the stand in Federal court for his witness at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Dennis looked to the judge and said, "If I am allowed to, I will, believe me, tell all the truth…" The torch of truth-telling is then passed on to the next set of nuclear resisters. They in turn give to the next. So we await, from the bowels of our southeast Georgia keep, the next of the three phases (action, trial, prison) of the Kings Bay Plowshares witness.

The second phase of our plowshare's witness, inspired by the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, is to figuratively hammer the Judiciary... in an attempt to convert the courts (plural) from legitimizer of nuclear holocaust sword to abolition plowshare. Our instrument, all self-righteousness aside, is what usually becomes the first casualty in the courtroom - truth. That’s the paradox, the torch passed on: We cannot shirk nor truncate "all the truth" for it is The witness…

There are many unknowns as this golf-pencilled prose is sent off late April (i. e. federal or state jurisdiction), but hammer we will, despite seeming failure.~


4/22/18 Reflection by Martha Hennessy
Camden County Jail, Woodbine, Georgia Jail

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against the Lord’s anointed one.(Acts 4: 23-26)

We walked in the dark, stars overhead, with Orion at our shoulder and the waning moon rising late. Praise to you Dear God, for this gift of Eden. There were fire flies and croaking frogs to keep us company. And to think the logic of Trident is the obliteration of Creation. What did God whisper to my ancestors and then to me? Swords into Plowshares! We don’t mean to make everyone furious, but why turn our blood and hammers into spray paint and bolt cutters?* Why continue to set the desecrated altar to the false idols of war? We walked onto a military base that harbors the ultimate destruction, and we prayed for the power of a message, of a witness that could reach many ears; conversion of free will towards life-giving work and away from death dealing false constructs.

We strung up crime scene tape over the model missiles and over the door to the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT), a place where war plans promise to take all we love. We wish to indict this war machine for what it is: immoral, illegal, and monstrous. Our foolish plans desire to see a world in which the suffering is lessened, our leaders begin to know what it means if they pull the nuclear trigger. Our action is an invitation to all for a change of heart that will bring us to true revolution.

*Editor’s note: the charging documents and the Magistrate referred to their possession of bolt cutters and spray paint, but ignored mention of the symbols of blood and hammers, which were used by the seven in their symbolic action.~


4/11/18 Reflection by Elizabeth McAlister
Camden County Jail, Woodbine, Georgia

Absurd Convictions, Modest Hopes is the title of one of the more than fifty books by my late brother-in-law Daniel Berrigan (RIP and Presente!). It might be fair to say that we came to Kings Bay Submarine Base animated by the absurd conviction that we could make some impact on slowing, if not ending, the mad rush to the devastation of our magnificent planet. And this is no extreme overstatement. The six Trident submarines that consider Kings Bay their homeport carry enough destructive power to destroy all life on Earth. What difference can seven aging activists make?

We come with hammers to imprint the pristine coat of the weapon. Knowing a bit about how important image is in the military, the weapons so scarred may be trashed.
We come with blood (our own) to mark the weapons’ purpose as the spilling of blood and yes,
We come with bolt cutters to violate the fences that protect the weapons that spell death to all life.

But, above all, we come with our voices and our lives. We raise our voices in a cry to dismantle the weapons- all of them and we risk life and limb and our future hopes to make this plea: “dismantle the weapons.”

Admirals at Kings Bay, you must know as well or better than we, that the payload of your six Tridents is more than enough to obliterate all life on Earth (cf. Daniel Ellsberg’s book Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Bloomsbury, 2017, to learn more)

We plead with you to examine your priorities. Is this really what you want to be about?
How can you look at your children and grandchildren and continue to grease the wheels of destruction. Turn it around before it is too late…

Editors note: Yesterday when I spoke with Clare, she related a beautiful story about Liz: The women in the jail have an emergingprayer circle. They asked Liz, as the elder, to lead a prayer. Liz was reluctant but eventually agreed. She began by saying, “God is in each of us. Each of you has God within you.” She repeated those words. Women began to weep. No one had ever shared this with many of the women in the Camden county jail.
Any of us who have been inspired and comforted by Liz can probably hear her steady, firm, and loving Irish inflected New York voice offering that benediction. Thank God for the gift of Elizabeth McAlister in that jail and in our world.~


4/9/18 Reflection by Clare Grady
Camden County Jail, Woodbine, Georgia

We say, 'the ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide', and yet, the explosive power of this weapon is only part of what we want to make visible. We see that nuclear weapons kill every day by their mere existence. Their production requires mining, refining, testing, and dumping of radioactive material, which poisons sacred Earth and Water, all on Indigenous land. 
We see the billions of dollars it takes to build and maintain the Trident system as stolen resources, which are desperately needed for human needs.
We see nuclear weapons as a cocked gun, the biggest gun, used 24/7 to ENFORCE the many layers of state-sponsored violence and deadly force required to maintain white supremacy, global capitalism, and global domination.
We invite others who have been privileged by these systems to join us in withdrawing consent from their deadly function and purpose. We live with hope for a nuclear-free, decolonized world.~