"We can only change things at the edges, never at the
center." Mark Twain
by Mar Peter-Rieux
July 31, 2014
I met Dury at the Federal prison at Danbury, Connecticut,
where I was teaching a World Views & Values course for Marist College. The
evening class started before sundown which meant the two Muslem women would have to extend their fast during the month of
Ramadan for another two hours. Dury came a little late to class, and as she
made her way across the room to a chair, she surreptitiously dropped a snack
on the desks of the women fasting.
In conversation with her sometime
later, I learned that she was a mother of six children, the last born after she came to prison. "I
never had enough money for the kids," she said, "and all I had to do was go to JFK and pick up a package. I'd
get $2000.00." Wanting so much to buy things that her kids both needed and wanted, she didn't
ask too many questions.
"The Lord told me not to do it. The
Lord told me not to do it," she repeated. Arrested and sentenced to six years in prison, her sentence
automatically included separation from her children. This sentence was not mentioned at all, nor found in Court documents,
nor a spoken matter of concern by any official connected with Dury's case. It is an automatic matter of policy for the nearly
120,000 women in prison today, 80% who have school-age children.
most devastating aspect of going to prison for Dury was being separtated from her six kids for the duration of her sentence.
Walking with a prison official across the prison grounds to the education building, I learned that
about half of the women at the Federal facility were there on a "Conspiracy" charge, such
as knowing, but not reporting, that a boyfriend was selling drugs, and might have used her phone to make a drug deal, or she
might have given him a lift somewhere and that was when he was arrested, now both serving fifteen years
The consequence for the children, the trauma of being separated from their
mother, is borne out in the statistics of the later incarceration rate for chlldren of a parent in prison,
60% by some counting. Depression and attachment disorder are common to these youth, most in foster
care or living with a relative.
Good grief, what right does any government
have to deny children the love of a parent by forcing their separation? Apart from the inhumanity of
a life-long Conspiracy sentence, the cell door slams shut on the whole childhood of her children of
an incarcerated mother.
It doesn't have to be this way.
There are viable, innovative, inexpensive, and far more humane alternatives for both mothers
and their children. And the outcome would be transformative - a win for the mother, a win for the children, a
win for society. A Proposal. See next column.
A 'Beloved Community'
for Imprisoned Mothers
The Column to the right expands on the above entry. Rather than repeat the
Proposal, I'll direct you to read it, next door, and, if you like, comment in the Address book (last item on left
side-bar). I repeat that not all imprisoned mothers are candidates for the "Campus." But
many are. The damage done by prison policy, separating mothers and kids, is incalcuable. And the misery
hidden behind prison walls is invisible outside the system. Cruel separation is simply prison as usual. It is
not the only cruelty. While teaching at the Federal Facility at Danbury, Connecticut, I was given a poem by a woman
prisoner, a mother, to include in an article I was writing on Mothers in Prison. I've lost touch with her. so I won't
use her name without her permission. But the poem masterfully captures the raw reality of a great many women in prison.
The labyrinth of captivity
Has a secret Rite of Passage,
Deflected by those well-versed
The senses reel from the
Of shocking assault.
Those shackled and chained
Strip to the nightmare of
Left vulnerable for intrusion
The regime averts its virtuous eyes
As covert violations are forced
On the defenseless.
Disclaimed and concealed
Under the guise of superficial
Behind cold grey towering walls,
The tresspassed whimper silently,
Severe irreperable lacerations
To body and soul.
Ah, the sorcery of cultic ceremonies,
Rites of Passage,
into the hell of bondage.
July 27 - 30, 2014, Raquette Lake Compound
Members of our community attended a small retreat with members
of the World Constitution and Parliament Association. WCPA is an organization dedicated to bringing peace and justice
to the world by means of a federation of willing countries structuring together a just and humane world. Imagine a world
where we could settle our international differences in a court of law rather than on the battlefield. For more information
on this concept and the the Earth Constitution please visit: worldparliament-gov.org
. Also read Glen T. Martin's superb The Anatomy of a Sustainable World: Our Choice Between Climate Change or System
Change - How You Can make a Difference. See Review:
This is our resident puppy here at the Beloved Community house,
her name is Copper and she's a troublemaker.
Tradgedy in Gaza, Iraq, Iran, Syria and throughout
Events throughout the Middle East are tragic. We urge everyone to
become informed about the destruction occuring every day. In the case of Gaza, both Israelis and Palestinians have committed
atrocities, though we think it is important to address the massive inequality in military power between Israel and Palestine.
Children and innocent citizens have died on both sides, but disproportionately. Hundreds of children in Gaza have been
literally slaughtered, even at a Unitred Nations "safe" site, and after Israeli officers were informed multiple
times that the site was housing Palestianian citizens. The evil perpetuated by ISIS is beyond expression. We recall
Daniel Pearle being beheaded. And now it seems that ISIS has marked all journalists for execution. Whence cometh this
Evil? And can it be stopped? Abraham Joshua Heschel in his iconic article, "Good and Evil," holds
that we must do good acts, every day a mitsvah. Each act of good increases the weight of good in the world. There
is much more that can be done, of course, through governments, religious Institutions, allies, at sites throughout the world.
But we can start with hosts of mistvahs - sent out into the world, trailing prayers for healing, justice, forgiveness,
reconciliation, and, finally, transfiguration. What do you think? Comment in the Guest book, if interested.
Jorden Eck & Mar
|For "conspiracy," non-violent charge, losing kids
|Sentenced same as drug dealer, for not reporting
community has taken up the cause of mothers separated from their children through incarceration. A disturbing number of these
women have been convicted to harsh and lengthy sentences for the offence of not turning in a known partner or family
member selling drugs. Receiving the same sentence as the dealer, women suffer the far worse auxillary sentence of separation
from their children - for a great many, for the whole of their childen's childhood.
What right do we have as a nation to inflict such inhumanity in
addition to an already stiff sentence? We believe that the children should have their mother in their lives on a regular basis.
What right do we have to inflict this loss of their mother on the children? A more compassionate approach is needed,
and certainly a radical revision of sentencing. Alternatives do not include only prison cells or freedom. Jorden
PROPOSAL - A BELOVED COMMUNITY FOR
INCARCERATED WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN
It is long past time to reconceptualize and restructure imprisonment for mothers with school
aged-children. We propose a secured Campus where mothers and their children live in a compound of 3 family cottages.
Chldren would go to public schools, and on Campus participate in art, music, play-acting, science discovery, reading
in a terrific library or book exchange. Mothers could receive counseling (most in prison have been abused), vocational
training or academic programs, paranting classes with solid child psychology, and learn the ins and outs of computers. Weekly,
movies, instructive, intersting, and inspiring, would expand consciousness and open a larger world of reference. With
an approximately 3-year sentence (not a draconian 5-10, or even 15 yrs to life), both mother and children would be well prepared
for work and life. their prospects greatly enhanced. There are women with other non-violent charges who would
also be candidates for the alternative of a secured Campus where they could live together with their children. Ideally,
the Campus would become a 'beloved community', one that benefits all. One feature for the women would be a continued
connection with the "campus" community and friends made there, with events, family days, rallies.
The practical fact is that this alternative arrangement would not
only greatly benefit sentenced mothers and their children, but it would save considerable money now spent for foster care,
the whole prison and guards apparatus, and other costs. Women's post-prison prospects are almost always quite difficult,
but given life skills, education, inspiration, continued belonging in the community, and a continued relationship with their
children, women would be able to actually contribute to the society (again realizing considerable savings). The statistics
for children of incarcerated parents becoming incarcerated themselves, by some estimates, are between 50-60%. With their
enriched lives and continued relationship with their mothers, it is almost certain that the incidence of incarceration would
be significantly lessened. A win for the mothers, a win for the childten, a win for the state's economy, a win for humanity.
Let's make this alternative happen! Mar Peter-Rieux
Today a number of people of conscience are
speaking out on behalf of those being persecuted because of ethnicity or religion, those with bombs dropping on their crowded
spaces, those traumtized with drones circling overhead that unpredictably blast fire into a family's quarters targeting one
One of those with both conscience and courage, Chris Hedges, a public intellectual par excellence,
a TruthDig columnist, is speaking, writing, & standing with Occupiers and others in denouncing U.S. Drones
as they terrorize civilians in sovereighn nations, murdering children and whole families. With a level of detachment,
drones are killing civilians, including over 200 children, in not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia
as well. Deaths have included an entire wedding party, children walking along the road, others tending cattle, a mother and her five children, targeted U.S. citizens
in Yemen. Jorden
The Better World Beloved Community with Hedges and other resisters call our government to account, and
to an immediate end to its acting throughout the Middle East as judge, jury, and executioner.
"The purpose of the civil rights movement is healing... reconciliation...
redemption... the creation of The Beloved Community." ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bradley Manning, now chelsia manning, who Leaked to the Media Video Footage
of U.S. War Crimes in Afghanistan, was Judged guilty of 20 charges and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her case, being
appealed, is expected to go all the way to the u.s. supreme court. the beloved community house Stands with Manning as with
one Beleaguered and Humiliated-in-custody.
Check out Bradleymanning.org - couragetoresist.org for more information.
Prisoners at Guantanamo bay prison are still being held without charge or
hearing. they have been imprisoned for 4-5 years AFTER being cleared for release. Their long fast achieved the
release of a few prionsers, but most are still imprisoned. One prisoner, looking for work in Pakistan was picked up in a sweep.
without charge or trial, he has been at Gitmo 11 1/2 years. he is desperate to get back home to his wife and four
children. With the signing by President Barack Obama of the "indefinite detension" segment of the National
Defense Authorization Act, the prisoners have lost hope of ever being released. 80 of them were cleared for release
years ago, and are in despair. There is no movement in their cases. the department responsible for arranging their
release has been closed. Even contact with their lawyer is limited and controlled. they continue to suffer humiliation,
rough treatment, separation from their families, and not even given knowledge of their cases.
Thank you! Calcutta Corner Dump Project.
Our 5th annual yardsale for the children
of the Calcutta Corner dump was very worthwhile. The children and their families are being given essential opportunities
for schooling, vocational training, emergency medical care, heightened nutrition for babies and small children, and an occasional
outing celebrating a holiday, a marriage, and other events. We greatly appreciate the contributions made by friends,
yard sale junkies, Karen, Jory, Tom, Cameron, Jorden, Caleb, Julianna, Sarah, Heather, Jamie, Michelle, Carl, Mary Joe, Josiah,
Jacob, and Judith and George. You are the spirit of the Beloved Community House. Thank you. We also greatly
appreciate our Project Keeper in Kolkata - Christopher Ratan Das. He visits the dump frequently as well as the people's
ancestral village (also poor). He serves indefatigably. 45 Riverside Drive Binghamton NY.
If you wish to contribute, for a tax deduction, make out check to Marist College, write Calcutta Project on subject line,
and send to Dr. Mar Peter-Raoul, 45 Riverside Drive, Binghamton 13905. To have a tax receipt sent to you, please include
your name and address. Include your e-mail if you wish to be notified of events and the work of the Community.
Jorden Eck, House Coordinator, the Better World Beloved Community
Postscript on the subject of drones: Members of the
Beloved Community recently had the honor of meeting with Medea Benjamin, Co-founder of Code Pink and Global Exchange.
We join Code Pink in protesting our country's raining down fire on people in Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed including nearly 200 children - children walking along a road, tending cattle, riding
in a mistaken car, attending a funereal, celebrating a wedding. U.S. drones continuously circle overhead, stike
homes with families to target a suspeted terrorist, often strike the wrong target, continuously terrorize the whole area.
PROTEST TO THE PRESIDENT AND PRAY! Jorden Eck
The Better World
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and the opening of
to those who are bound;
To proclaim the year of our Lord's favor
and the day of rescue of
To comfort all who mourn."
|India and America crossing over to each other
|Artist: Julianna Eck, when 13
|Children lay baby in Calcutta shrine, picture by Sree Durga youth