Every year on 1st December War Resisters' International and its members mark Prisoners for Peace Day, when we publicise the names and stories of those imprisoned for their actions for peace. Many are conscientious objectors, in jail for refusing to join the military. Others have taken nonviolent actions to disrupt preparation for war. Supporters send cards and letters in solidarity. This year, there were also solidarity actions with three conscientious objectors in prison in Israel.
In this edition of The Broken Rifle, we share some reflections on the experience of people who have been imprisoned for taking actions against militarism. This includes Lee Sangmin, who has appeared on our Prisoners for Peace list, and received messages of solidarity from around the world. We also include piece by Paul Magno on the experience of supporting the Transform Now Plowshares three, when they were imprisoned. Finally – in a good news story – there is an article on the campaign to free Oscar López Rivera, a political prisoner just released from jail after thirty five years of incarceration.
Prisons are sites of violence and social control - not just for those imprisoned for nonviolent political actions, but for all. The prison-industrial complex is intrinsically linked with a militarised approach to security, in which faith is put in the idea that you can 'put a lid' on perceived threats by containing them through force and the threat of it. A horribly good example of this is the experience of Palestinians in prison in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Read about this here.
There is money to be made in the dehumanising, uniformity of prisons, and – like other forms of militarism - mercenaries are ready to make a profit. In Facing Tear Gas YaliniDream calls out the systematic use of tear gas, pepper spray or other chemical agents in US prisons.
Antimilitarism holds that a vision of security based on surveillance, unequal power relations and a monopoly of violence is counterproductive and inhumane. This can be as true of prisons as it is of armies.