US Political Prisoner and Peace Activist Helen Woodson Released after 27 Years

October 10th, 2011 - by admin

The Nuclear Resister – 2011-10-10 23:56:43

Helen Woodson Released from Prison!

Longest Imprisoned Nuclear Resister
Helen Woodson Released after 27 Years

The Nuclear Resister

In November 1984, Helen Woodson, Larry Cloud Morgan, Fr. Paul Kabat and Fr. Carl Kabat — the Silo Pruning Hooks — used a sledgehammer and pneumatic jackhammer to disarm nuclear missile silo N5 in rural Missouri. Helen Woodson was released on September 9, 2011, after serving nearly 27 years in prison for that and subsequent actions against war and other assaults on human dignity, peace and the environment. She walked out of the Administrative Maximum unit of the Federal Medical Center — Carswell in Ft. Worth, Texas and took a bus to Kansas City where she now is living with sponsors.

Longest Jailed Nuclear Resister
Helen Woodson Needs Support

The Nuclear Resister

(October 3, 2011) — Helen Woodson, jailed for all but a few days since 1984 for a series of nonviolent direct actions against nuclear weapons, war, and the desecration of the environment, will be released from prison in the United States later this year. She’ll need support, if you are able to help. Over the years we have spent time in prison and/or supported other activists who have been in prison for acts of conscience. We write to you now with a special request on behalf of Helen Woodson.

Back in November of 1984, Helen was part of the Silo Pruning Hooks action. She went to a Missouri nuclear missile silo along with Larry Cloud-Morgan, Fr. Carl Kabat OMI and Fr. Paul Kabat OMI. With sledgehammer and jackhammer, the group followed the biblical mandate of Isaiah to turn swords into plowshares. They were convicted and received a varied number of years of prison time for their action.

With the exception of a few days, Helen has been in prison ever since. (A couple of times in past years when released, she immediately engaged in an action that resulted in arrest and being returned directly to prison for violating parole.)

She is scheduled to be released in September of 2011 after 27 years behind bars.

Helen is looking forward to getting out and, at the age of 67 and with health issues, has decided to now retire from activities that might return her to prison.

It’s been a long time since she’s lived on the outside. She’ll leave prison with a sweatsuit, plus books that she’s accumulated. That’s it.

Since she will leave prison with no source of income or health coverage, she plans to apply for government assistance, but it can take six or so months for someone to find out if they are eligible to receive benefits. In the meantime, in addition to things like food and clothes, she’ll need to purchase medications for multiple health problems, at quite a significant cost. So she has asked friends to raise funds on her behalf (not money to be used while she is in prison, but for the things she’ll need once she’s released).

Her living situation once she’s released is still uncertain. It has been challenging for her to develop a plan that the Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice find suitable since Helen will be subjected to many conditions and restrictions after her release. The couple who have invited her to live with them are still waiting to be contacted to answer the questions and receive the home visit needed to determine if Helen will be allowed to live there. Helen is very much hoping that they and their home will be approved. If not, she is not sure where she will be able to live, and it’s possible additional money will need to be raised to enable her to rent a small place to live.

In the meantime, until this becomes more clear, it will ease her mind significantly if she can at least know that she’ll be able to pay for the medicines she needs, and things like a winter coat. Can you help?

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, many thousands of people in the U.S. and around the world have been arrested for anti-nuclear civil disobedience, and hundreds have spent time in prison for these actions. None of these people (not even long-imprisoned Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu) have spent more time in prison than Helen Woodson. We ask that you join us now in providing her with needed support as she embarks on this huge transition after her many years in prison.

Please be as generous as you are able! Any amount, from $1 to $1000, will be gratefully received. Checks and money orders can be made payable to the Nuclear Resister (with “for Helen” written on the memo line) and sent to the Nuclear Resister, PO Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733. Peace,

Jacqueline Allen-Doucot
Hartford Catholic Worker

Elizabeth McAlister
Jonah House

Felice Cohen-Joppa
The Nuclear Resister

Anna Brown
Kairos Community

From FMC Carswell, Max Unit
Helen Woodson / The Nuke Resister

FMC CARSWELL (July 23, 2011) — Dear Jack & Felice,
48 days — and then I’ll emerge, Winkle-esque, into a very different world. I’ve always been a troglodyte and came to prison never having laid eyes on a TV remote control. Now the federal prisons have e-mail! I am not permitted to use it, but I did have to acquire rudimentary computer skills to access my address list and commissary account.

Years earlier, a good friend and I, ignorant of the terminology, had decided to call the process of using the Internet “mousing-on”. Before I acquired the afore-mentioned rudimentary skills, I thought one held the mouse in one’s hand and aimed it at the screen. You know, like ye olde remote control. Undaunted, when the need arose, it took me a mere 3 weeks to master the defiant little rodent, after which I gloated for days (okay, forever) about its final submission to my clear genetic superiority. Skype, beware! Woodson’s on the way. I realize I’m going on a bit randomly, but I get to do that because this is my last such letter and because in the end, it will all come together.

Some things change. Some never do. Alfred Nobel left much of his fortune for the establishment of annual awards. He had made the fortune after experimenting with nitroglycerin. His first manufacturing plant blew up, killing his youngest brother, Emil. Did that deter him? It did not, and 3 years later, he patented his new explosive, “dynamite”. This may explain why it is entirely consistent that Barak Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while engaged in 2 wars and then went on to a starring role in a third. If I ever write a book about war, I will dedicate it to Emil Nobel and the hundreds of millions of our other brothers and sisters whom we’ve blown up over the years in the pursuit of peace (and prizes).

Some here have asked if my prison time has gone by quickly. The very thought shocks me. Counting previous jail time, we’re talking about almost 28 years. Rip Van Winkle makes a good story, but imagine waking up one morning to discover you’ve lost the last 28 years of your life! Life should not go by quickly. I have always loved life generally and my own life specifically, and since we never live alone, that means having loved those with whom I’ve shared it.

There is much that I’m looking forward to post-release, but I’m also keenly aware that I will be bidding farewell, first to beloved friends here whose absence from my life will be very strange and very sad. And then to the felonious folks out there who have been my dear friends for more than 25 years and with whom I will no longer be allowed contact.

Some things change. A couple of years ago, 2 feral cats showed up in our yard, suitably ferocious as befit their station in life. Now they attack only our shoelaces and mostly just snooze on our laps. A few days ago, a raccoon family began visiting. The mother is encouraging her 5 babies to move into independence, and they’re eager to explore this new world. In a year, they will no longer recognize each other.

In the end, it all does come together. There really is objective Truth, and it can be known. There really is objective moral right and wrong, and none of us can abdicate the responsibility to recognize and live by it. And there really is Love. Some things never change. 48 days…

Monthly Archive for September, 2011

Boertje-Obed and Garbison refuse fines & community service; jailed one week for Kansas City nuclear weapons factory protest
Posted on September 29, 2011

Art Laffin (Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community, Washington, DC) writes from Kansas City:
Dear Friends,
It was a long fruitful day of truth-telling in Kansas City Municipal Court for 27 peacemakers, mostly Catholic Workers, arrested last May 2nd at the site of the new Kansas City nuclear weapons plant. Those arrested were part of a larger nonviolent witness, including 26 others who were also arrested, calling for the transformation of the Bomb parts plant currently being constructed. – more-2052
» Read more…

Dennis DuVall gets one month in jail for Y-12 trespass
Posted on September 28, 2011

Y12 Resisters’ Sentencing • Day 7, Dennis DuVall
Report by Ralph Hutchison, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Upon first meeting Dennis DuVall, with his Arizona tan, square jaw, bright eyes, and tall white cowboy hat, you can’t help but think “Marlboro Man.” Then you talk with Dennis and listen to the depth of his commitment, his bright wit, his thoughtful response in almost any circumstance, and you realize there is a lot going on under that hat.

That was never more apparent than this morning, in federal court in Knoxville, when Dennis stood before the judge. The hearing was a little a-kilter, because Dennis’s attorney, Robert Kurtz, had challenged his pre-sentencing report and it’s assignment of category points. Eventually the judge would recess to consider and then deny the motion, but the effect at the beginning of the hearing was the judge completely skipped the prosecution’s recommendation on Dennis’s sentence.
Read more.

Y-12 resister Beth Rosdatter sentenced to one month; taken into custody
Posted on September 21, 2011

Beth Rosdatter witnesses against nuclear weapons at Y-12, July 5, 2010.
Y12 Resisters’ Sentencing • Day Six, Part 2: Beth Rosdatter
Report from Ralph Hutchison, OREPA

To fully appreciate Beth Rosdatter’s sentencing hearing, one would have to have been present during the trial in May. Before the trial, Judge Bruce Guyton ruled a few things out of bounds — any discussion of nuclear policy, nuclear weapons, faith, motivation, good intent, and, mostly, anything that might evoke sympathy or understanding on the part of a juror. He was granting a prosecution request at the time, and the problem he ran into early on, with the first witness, was the prosecution asking about nuclear policy.

It wasn’t until later in the trial, when Beth took the stand, that the prosecutor asked her a direct question about her motive. She hesitated, then looked at the judge and said, “I think she just asked me a question you don’t want me to answer.” This precipitated a sidebar conversation with the lawyers, at the end of which the judge admonished all parties to be mindful of his ruling. – more-2004
» Read more…

Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch sentenced to time served for Y-12 action
Posted on September 21, 2011

Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch at Y-12, July 5, 2010.
Y12 RESISTERS SENTENCING REPORT • Day 6, Part 1, Mary Dennis Lentsch
From Ralph Hutchison, OREPA

Mary Dennis Lentsch appeared this morning before judge Bruce Guyton in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee to be sentenced for her nonviolent civil resistance at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in July of 2010. The courtroom was full of supporters as Mary Dennis was brought in in shackles; she has been in custody since mid-June in Ocilla, Georgia.

The Assistant District Attorney, Melissa Kirby, set the tone, telling the judge that Mary Dennis was “a little different” from the others who have been sentenced over the past ten days. “Her offenses are almost exclusively at this facility, at Y12,” she said; she’s had seven convictions at Y12, including a prior federal arrest in 2002. At that time she was sentenced to two months in a halfway house [served instead in federal prison] and one year of supervised release. It did not appear to serve a deterrent effect as she continues to go to Y12 to commit these offenses.”
Read more.

Brad Lyttle sentenced to 1 month house arrest & 1 year probation for Y-12 disarmament action
Posted on September 20, 2011

Brad Lyttle under arrest, July 5, 2010
Report from Ralph Hutchison with the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

If Brad and the judge were going to have a difference of opinion, it wasn’t going to be over Brad’s lack of courtesy. “Mr. Lyttle, can you hear me?” Judge Bruce Guyton asked, as he does of every defendant at the beginning of proceedings. “I certainly can, your honor,” replied Brad cheerfully. And then he thanked the judge for releasing his passport allowing him to travel to Afghanistan and Canada while he was on supervised release, for being kind and open-minded, for assigning the public defender to assist him in his self-representation. Then turning to the Assistant District Attorney, Melissa Kirby, he offered his congratulations on her marriage.
Read more.

Another activist, Steve Baggarly, receives 8 month prison sentence for Y-12 disarmament action
Posted on September 20, 2011
Steve Baggarly under arrest, July 5, 2010.
Y-12 Resisters’ Sentencing Report
(from Ralph Hutchison, OREPA)

DAY FIVE, PART I • 19 September 2011, Steve Baggarly
The purpose of the hearing was to sentence Steve Baggarly for his July 2010 trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex, but when the Judge turned to ask Steve if he had anything to say, Steve delivered a message that was part indictment of the bomb plant and part map of the path to hope.
He began with the simple fact that Y12 enriched the uranium for the Little Boy bomb and produced the thermonuclear secondary for every nuclear weapon in the US arsenal. He illustrated the true nature of the bomb with a recollection of the story of a Hiroshima survivor, Kozu Itagaki, who reported: “Victims of the blast seemed like ghosts, without a vestige of clothing, their sex unclear, tottering toward the park, their skin hanging down like potato skins. They climbed toward the top of the hill, supposing they would find relief, but the next morning they were found dead at the top of the hill.” – more-1895
» Read more…

Michael Walli receives 8 month sentence for nonviolent action at Y-12
Posted on September 20, 2011
Y12 Resisters’ Sentencing Report
[From Ralph Hutchison, OREPA]
DAY FOUR • September 19, Mike Walli

Mike Walli appeared in federal court in Knoxville on Monday, September 19, 2011 to face sentencing for his May 2011 conviction on charges of trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN in July 2010. Mike has been in custody, held mostly in Ocilla, GA, since the trial in May.

The procedure began with Judge Bruce Guyton asking Mike if he could hear him. Mike did not answer, but his attorney, Chris Irwin, spoke up to say that Mike had chosen to remain silent before the court, but he (Chris) having just spent an hour in conversation with Mike, was certain Mike could hear and understand.

After formalities — have both sides read the sentencing memorandum? — Chris Irwin began by asking the court for a moment of silence for Jackie Hudson. The judge granted the request, and silence was observed. – more-1891
» Read more…

Two Dominican sisters receive time served for Y-12 protest
Posted on September 16, 2011

Sr. Carol Gilbert helps her Domincan Sister Ardeth Platte through the barbed wire at Y-12.

DAY THREE • 16 September 2011 • Part I, Carol Gilbert
Carol Gilbert, arrested at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in OakRidge, Tennessee in July 2010 and convicted in May 2011 on a misdemeanor trespass charge, appeared before Judge Bruce Guyton for sentencing on Friday, September 16, 2011. Carol’s pre-sentencing investigation determined her sentencing range — points for prior offenses, added to points for the current offense — at 1-7 months.

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Kirby announced the government had no objections to the pre-sentencing report and sought a “just and fair sentence,” noting Carol had already served four months.

In her elocution, delivered just before the judge handed down his sentence, Carol said, “We do not choose jail. We do choose nonviolent direct action. We do choose to try to uphold Article 6 of the United States Constitution which was not allowed in this courtroom. We do choose life over death. But we do not choose jail.” Read more.

Anti-nuclear activist Bonnie Urfer sentenced to 8 months for misdemeanor trespass at Y-12
Posted on September 14, 2011

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Bonnie Urfer, 59, of Luck, Wisconsin, a long-time staff member of the nonprofit nuclear watchdog group Nukewatch, was sentenced by the federal court here today to a total of eight months incarceration. Urfer has been in jail since May 11 and will now serve another four months.

Presiding Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton had Urfer incarcerated May 11, 2011, immediately following a jury trial involving 12 activists, all of whom were convicted of trespass for a sit-down protest that took place July 5, 2010 at the Y12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. – more-1876
» Read more…

What Bonnie Urfer will say in court today
Posted on September 14, 2011
Published on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 by
Anti-Nuclear Activist, Bonnie Urfer, Fights Crime in Sentencing Statement
by John LaForge

Bonnie Urfer, 59, of Luck, Wis., is being sentenced in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., today, even though she’s been in federal custody ever since her May 11 trespassing conviction. A long-time nuclear weapons resister and nonviolence trainer, she’s spent most of the last four months in a private, for-profit jail in southeast Georgia.

After working for Nukewatch for 25 years, Bonnie’s learned something about nuclear weapons and she’s done more than four years in jail for peacefully resisting them. She joined 12 others in walking onto the property of the Y12 nuclear weapons fabrication complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 2010. Convicted of the federal misdemeanor with the others, she could get a year in prison.

Read more.

Letters from Other Jailed Prisoners of Conscience
The Inside Line
From the Irwin County Detention Center
by Steve Baggarly

Posted on September 5, 2011
Reprinted from the Catholic Agitator, newsletter of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. Steve Baggarly will be sentenced September 20 in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee, for trespass July 5, 2010 at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Last night as I prepared to turn in, at the foot of my upper bunk, […]
Read more.

Jackie Hudson, Presente

Posted on August 15, 2011
TRIBUTE TO JACKIE HUDSON, OP from her sisters in prison Sister Jackie Hudson, OP — Dominican Sister of Grand Rapids, Michigan, missioned to Ground Zero near Bangor Trident Naval Base, faith-filled and faithful peacemaker and organizer, strong preacher of truth, gentle and nonviolent woman, teacher, musician, plowshare activist and resister, was called before her unconditionally […]
Read more.

From the Irwin County Detention Center
by Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch

Posted on July 24, 2011
July 8, 2011 Dear Peacemaking Friends, With all the prayers and positive energy coming to me from so many directions, I feel I’m doing very well here at the Ocilla jail. This letter is being written to LaQuita with what the commissary calls a “ballpoint pen”. It is the skinny little filler for a pen so […]

Read more.

From the Irwin County Detention Center
by Michael Walli

Posted on July 1, 2011
A JOKE AND A LETTER The U.S. and Russia are supposedly allies in fighting Islamic terrorism. But they do not trust one another — they spy upon one another. The U.S. Navy Seals used trained porpoises to spy upon the Russian Navy in their naval warfare activities. But the Russian sailors kidnapped the porpoises….

Read more.

From FCI Dublin
by Susan Crane

Posted on June 19, 2011
Thank you for your letters, your prayers, the books you have sent. Thanks for maintaining contact with me. I arrived at the federal prison here in California, flown in with 29 other women from Pahrump, Nevada. We had been woken up at midnight to get ready to leave, and had been in shackles and waistchain […]
Read more.

From the Irwin County Detention Center, Georgia
by Bonnie Urfer

Posted on June 18, 2011
TOILET PAPER by Bonnie Urfer I really want to complain about every woman in this jail receiving one roll of toilet paper to last for the whole week but I can’t because the for profit jail almost killed my friend Jackie in it’s “medical” unit. I really want to complain about the lack of toilet […]
Read more.

From the Blount County Correctional Facility, TN
by Carol Gilbert, O.P.

Posted on June 6, 2011
May 25, 2011 Dear Friends, Welcome to another of America’s gulags — this one in Eastern TN — the Blount County Correctional Facility in Maryville, TN! This is day number 15 and I want to begin the journey with a quote from Jarhead by Anthony Swofford and his experiences as a Marine in Operation Desert […]
Read more.

From Tacoma, Washington
by Lynne Greenwald

Posted on April 29, 2011
FDC SeaTac by Lynne Greenwald Concrete walls and locked doors cannot take away images of bright lights, fences and towers protecting tombs of unimaginable horrors. We remember fertile lands, natural forests, mollusk-rich beaches, early morning fog clinging to water and earth until the sun brightens the sky, exposing Olympian mountains. Trident IS Illegal and Immoral. […]
Read more.

A letter from Bix (written several days before beginning “diesel therapy” to Tennessee)

Posted on April 19, 2011
After spending the first 2 1/2 weeks of his prison sentence for the Disarm Now Plowshares action at the SeaTac Federal Correction Facility, Jesuit priest Bill “Bix” Bichsel was taken out of his cell on April 18. He is being transported several thousand miles across the U.S. to Tennessee, where he is scheduled to join […]
Read more.

From Lompoc, California
by Louis Vitale

Posted on March 24, 2011
Responding to the Message of Fukashima By Louie Vitale In “From Hiroshima to Fukushima,” an article published in The Nation on March 15 in the wake of the nuclear power disaster in Japan, historian Jonathan Schell once again hit the mark. The author of the ground-breaking book The Fate of the Earth published in the […]

Read more.

From Fr. Louis Vitale, written at the Irwin County Detention Center, Georgia

Posted on December 20, 2010
December 8, 2010 HERE WE ARE AGAIN by Fr. Louis Vitale Two weeks have passed since David Omondi and I began our sojourn here at Irwin County Detention Center in southern Georgia. Some may say, “Vitale has protested himself back into the pokey below the Mason-Dixon line” and “He has been jailed again in an […]
Read more.

From Danville, Connecticut
by Nancy Gwin

Posted on September 29, 2010
Illegal Reentry by Nancy Gwin I. In January I was found guilty in Federal Court in Columbus, Georgia of “Illegal Reentry onto a United States Military Reservation.” I have been incarcerated here at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution since March 8. The illegal reentry occurred last November when Fr. Louis Vitale, Ken Hayes, Michael Walli and […]

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From Skenäs Prison, Sweden
by Martin Smedjeback

Posted on August 2, 2010
SERVING TIME FOR PEACE IN SWEDEN 17th of June, 2010 I am led into the central office of the prison Skenäs outside of Norrköping. Two guards help me to carry my stuff. “It looks like you are moving in here!” says one guard. “That’s exactly what I am doing, temporary anyway,” says I. “Do you […]

Read more.

From Lompoc, California
by Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM

Posted on June 5, 2010
(From the Nuclear Resister #157, June 1, 2010) February 25, 2010 How Can I Cope? Many people who write me — friends and supporters — ask about harsh treatment and brutality. I do not deny that in many prisons and jails these conditions do exist. One can even raise the charge of torture. In regards […]
Read more.

From Vikbolandet, Sweden
by Martin Smedjeback

Posted on April 1, 2010
(From the Nuclear Resister #154, July 17, 2009) Strategy Behind Swedish Disarmament The network Ofog (meaning mischief in Swedish) started in 2002 as an anti-militarist network for a nuclear-free world. Inspired by the Trident Ploughshares campaign in Great Britain, we used mainly blockades in our actions but also other forms of direct action, like penetrating […]
Read more.

From Pekin, Illinois
by Kristin Holm

Posted on April 1, 2010
(From the Nuclear Resister #153, May 1, 2009, via March 22, 2009 (in the afternoon) I got my first visit yesterday — mom and dad. When I found out they were coming I was pleased, but markedly unemotional. It would be good to see them — I like my parents. But it was to […]
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From Norrköpping, Sweden
by Annike Spalde

Posted on April 1, 2010
April 4, 2009 Ten years ago I was in jail in England, awaiting trial for an action within the Trident Ploughshares campaign. Now I’m on remand in Sweden, for a disarmament action against the fighter jet Gripen. It’s my first time locked up in Sweden. Compared with in England, one spends more time in the […]
Read more.

From Terre Haute, Indiana
by Rafil Dhafir

Posted on April 1, 2010
(From the Nuclear Resister #151, December 20, 2008) December 16, 2008 Two days ago, December 14, was my second anniversary here in CMU-Terre Haute, Indiana. Two years ago, with dozens of others, I was whisked here without explanation, to this place reserved for those on death row. The place was closed for years….
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