1 December 2001 Claire Hanrahan

Imprisoned for six months following a School of the Americas action in November 2000, Claire Hanrahan writes from her cell about life, war, solidarity and gardening.

Dear Allies and Friends
Fourteen weeks “down”. There is a golden bronze glow to everything now. The leaves are piling up in crunchy heaps on the hillsides and lawns keeping the women on “landscape crew” busy all day.

The Geese honk as they pass in wave after determined wave, disappearing through the valley beyond the river. Only a few leaves cling to the elder trees whose branches are dramatic against the pink- and grey-streaked sunset. Darkness falls earlier and by 7pm I'm…

1 December 2001 Dr Clara Meijer Wichmann

You could argue that a lot of things were different in 1919, but Dutch anarcho-pacifist Clara Wichmann certainly had some progressive ideas on crime and punishment.

Why is punishment inflicted? Most people don't even ask themselves that question. For them it is evident that prisons exist, cells in which those who have transgressed the penal laws of this society are locked-up, for weeks or months or even for years. They walk past these prisons, and are not disturbed by their existence.

Others, who have examined this question, find it easy to answer: a sense of justice, they say, demands repayment for injustice committed. Or they put forward the…

1 December 2001 Ippy D

Timed to coincide with the annual Prisoners for Peace list and associated articles, Peace News takes a look at prison and nonviolent struggle.

Not only because nonviolent activists and war resisters frequently end up in prison—and have to continue their struggle while inside - but also because the core issues of prison poses many conceptual challenges to nonviolence, challenges which we also feel we have failed to address adequately in this issue.

What is in there…

1 December 2001 Janet Kilburn

As a nonviolent activist who has been to prison for short periods on a number of occasions over anumber of years, the issue of how much we, as prisoners and as activists, participate in our own incarceration is something I have found quite perplexing.

Take - for example - the issue of work in prison as a simple starting point. The vast majority of prisons worldwide depend very heavily - if not entirely - on the goodwill and complicity of their captives, backed up by a range of…

1 December 2001 Jyotibhai Desai

What are the positive aspects of prison? What can being imprisoned or working with people imprisoned offer nonviolent activists? Jyotibhai Desai offers three short tales of the use of prisons in creating a humane society.

A scholar of Gandhi and Tolstoy from the US asked the founder of the Vedchhi Ashram “How do you decide when to offer Satyagraha and when to continue with constructive (village development) work?”

"I never went to prison, the prison came to me!", he answered, and added “we do not seek issues nor do we seek confrontations. Ours is a way to life. So live; So live! that the perpetrator of injustice, be it the state or the landlord, may understand how to correct…

1 December 2001 Matt Meyer

New Yorker and regular PN contributor Matt Meyer links the issues raised by the 11 September action against the symbols of US power with the status of political prisoners in the US, and the relationship with peace activists on the outside.

At 8.30am on the morning of Tuesday 11 September, as my subway train took me just under the World Trade Center (WTC) from my home in Brooklyn to my job in upper Manhattan, I am struck by a headline from The Daily News, New York's “hometown” newspaper. Alongside of a photo of mild- mannered African American educator Patrick Critton screams the news: “Cops Bag Panther - Nabbed 30 Years After Deadly Bank Heist.”

The story told of a hijacking to Cuba, following a 1971 bank…

1 December 2001 Pedro Enrique Polo Soltero

Explaining their work to support lesbian and gai activists in prison, Pedro Enrique Polo Soltero from Madrid-based group Gais Antimilitaristas places the need for nonviolent action - both inside and outside of the prison walls - in the wider context of working to globalise human rights and of supporting activists living and working under oppressive and militarist governments worldwide.

I can't offer a historical analysis of the situation for the gai or lesbian community in prison. I do not have any statistical information regarding the total number of lesbians and gais in prison, neither information about their sentences, nor information about their crimes, and even less information about the law. The only resources I have to draw on are from Amnesty International and other human rights groups.

Editors note: before reading this article you might find it helpful to…

1 December 2001 Roberta Bacic

When we think about prison we usually imagine the loss of physical liberty - of a life behind bars. But what about our minds? Roberta Bacic discusses the practical and political impact the practice of torture has on people in detention and within the wider community.

I have been invited to write about torture for this issue on prisons and really, much or nothing could be said, the topic simply does not allow for neutrality or impartiality.

It has not been easy to find a way of approaching the subject in such a way that allows us to enter - even superficially - into the paradoxes, the emotions, dilemmas and the rationality provoked by this human manifestation: something which is painful, hard, and even tortuous to communicate. So why examine this…

1 December 2001 Simo Hellsten

Finnish CO activist Simo Hellsten recounts an inspirational tale of symbolic nonviolent direct action to liberate a comrade from incarceration.

On 23 August a Finnish antimilitarist civil disobedience group - The Wall Breakers - symbolically attempted to rescue a total objector from prison.

As part of a small support demonstration at the Katajanokka prison, one of the group threw a rope over the prison wall while two others started digging a tunnel under it. The digging went on for half an hour until the police ended the performance. No arrests were made, though it is possible that indictments might follow.

The man on…

1 December 2001 Tikiri

The management of private prisons in many countries is netting some big profits for a handful of companies based in the west. French activist Tikiri examines the drive towards private provision and the connections with the “defence” industry.

Internationally, the role of the private sector in the criminal justice system is now substantial and set to expand. On top of contracted services such as food, cleaning, laundry and medical care, the last 20 years have seen private companies take charge of designing and building prisons as well as managing them, particularly in the US, Australia and Britain; with Puerto Rico, Canada and South Africa following closely.


A cheap deal?

In the US, the prison-industrial complex…

1 December 2001

According to the Washington Post "FBI and Justice Department investigators are increasingly frustrated by the silence of jailed suspected associates of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, and some are beginning to that say that traditional civil liberties may have to be cast aside if they are to extract information about the 11 September attacks and terrorist plans".

So far more than 150 people have been detained in the US in connection with the World…

1 December 2001

Gandhi practised two types of Satyagraha in his mass campaigns. The first was civil disobedience, which entailed breaking a law and courting arrest. When we today hear this term, our minds tend to stress the “disobedience” part of it. But for Gandhi, “civil” was just as important. He used “civil” here not just in its meaning of “relating to citizenship and government” but also in its meaning of “civilised” or “polite”. And that's exactly what Gandhi strove for.

We also tend to lay…

1 September 2001 Judit Arenas

More than 120,000 children, some no more than seven or eight years old, are currently fighting in armed conflicts around the world. Judit Arenas reports on the experience of child soldiers and the work being carried out to put an end to this abuse.

The stark images of child soldiers in armed conflicts today are shocking: sometimes under 10, dressed in uniforms too large or sportsgear that belongs in a park, armed with high powered weapons that are often bigger than themselves.

Many of these children are often forcibly recruited at gunpoint, but often it is poverty, propaganda and alienation that drives them into armies, paramilitaries and militias. Many join armed groups because of their own experience of abuse at the hands of…

1 September 2001 Julia Guest

In attempting to apply European values to educational needs, and with notions of protecting the "innocence" of children in non-European countries, do we undermine the one opportunity by which children can survive in their own communities? Julia Guest met child mechanics in Burkina Faso.

Sitting under the scant shade of a tree, a small huddle of boys started to talk about their life. I want to be the boss of a garage, said Xavier, a small boy; they all did.

This hope is what keeps them coming back, day after day, year after year. No they were not paid, as apprentices; food at lunchtime is all they receive. I watch them learning their trade in the blazing sun: Xavier and Bernard watch intently while the mechanic welds the car chassis, no more than a foot away from…

1 September 2001 Luis Tricot

A community action group in Chile is helping a neighbourhoodto better its environment and the lives of its people. Their main focus is on improving the quality of life for the community'schildren and on encouraging participation by them in organising and managing their own spaces. Luis Tricot reports.

Valparaiso sits staring at the Pacific Ocean, its multicolour houses hanging from its 37 hills, indifferent to the rain and wind that sweep through the city's narrow, winding streets.

In Chile's oldest port, you are never too far away from the sea or the sky, and you are far too close to poverty. Since its leading industries abandoned the city for Santiago, its fortunes have slipped and it has become capital of the one of the country's poorest regions. One group of residents has…

1 September 2001 Matt Mahlen

Matt Mahlen examines concepts such as "duty", "liberty" and "responsibility" and the relationship between the French military and the education system.

In France, the strong ties that bind the national education system and the army are as old as compulsory schooling itself. Both institutions served in the building of the nation.

Schools served as one of the coloniser's main means of acculturation, enrolling pupils in 1914 to send out letters to the front or to organise fund-raising fairs which helped to maintain hatred and the warlike frenzy of the time. The Second World War saw the Marshal Petain1 children trained to sing…

1 September 2001 Rick Jahnkow

High profile school shootings in the US have been the inspiration for much popular discussion about the causes of youth violence in recent years, with everyone—from bad parents and corrupt teachers, to rock stars—being blamed. Rick Jahnkow argues that while the motivation for such shootings may be complex, one causal factor in particular is being ignored—militarism.

When a student takes a gun to school and goes on a shooting rampage—as one 15-year-old is charged with doing in a community near me in California— the public immediately expresses its shock and confusion over how such a thing could ever occur.

Educators, politicians, and the mental health professionals who are called upon to deal with tragedies of this sort all struggle to come up with a plausible explanation. Usually, their attention focuses on narrow, individualistic conditions…

1 September 2001 Sara Cameron

Colombian children are providing a model of how children can become the authentic leaders of their community—and how children can lead the way to a community-wide shared vision, even when all hope for common vision has faded. Novelist and journalist Sara Cameron was invited by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to chronicle Colombia's children-led peace movement.

For more than 20 years, Colombia has been caught up in a brutal conflict between political opponents. On the left, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other groups have conducted guerilla warfare against the government since the mid-1960s. Unlike other insurgents in the region who were dependent on support from the Soviet bloc, the Colombian “revolution” has been self-financed through kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and by “taxing” coca producers and cocaine exporters.…

1 June 2001 Gustavo Esteva and Nicole Blanc

It has been said that the Zapatistas had a revolution within a revolution in terms of the role of women and unique gender dynamics. Three activists from Mexico explain why they believe, as a movement, Zapatismo has more than just symbolic feminine qualities.

In this article we present the conjecture that Zapatismo is a feminine movement. It is not feminist: it was not organised mainly, exclusively or expressly for the defence of women's rights, nor was it based on the conventional claims of many feminist traditions. In describing it as feminine we want to suggest not only that women had and have a decisive role in its conception and realisation, but also that they gave it colour and meaning. The orientation and practices of Zapatismo openly…

1 June 2001 Ruth Hiller

What about the people whose lives are turned upside down when they decide that, yes, they will support their friends or family in their objection to military service. Ruth Hiller describes her experience as a mother of a CO and as a feminist activist.

Just three years ago my son Yinnon approached me and told me that he could not serve in the military on moral grounds. He said he knew with growing certainty that pacifism was his ideal. He was sixteen years old.

The soul-searching that followed this declaration was not just my son's. It became mine as well, and that of the entire family. The process was deep and often painful. It forced us to question our core values, demanding a re-evaluation of ourselves as parents, siblings, as…