By JOHN LA FORGE | Nukewatch staff member | Posted in The Capital Times, Saturday, September 10, 2011
Bonnie Urfer, of Luck, Wis., is being sentenced in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 14, 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.
A gifted graphic artist, Bonnie always says, “I are not a writer.” But her sentencing statement, written for presiding Magistrate Bruce Guyton is worth repeating. She titled it, “So Many Crimes, So Little Time.”
“To the Court: One of the most unpleasant things in life is to go to jail. But because they are places with some of the worst human rights violations in one of the most unjust systems, it is important that people know what happens in them. We need people in jails who have a voice, and people who know to tell the truth.
“In the past 126 days I have been booked into three different jails. The hardest part of the experience is being just one person in the midst of so much systematic crime.
“I have a decision to make.
“Do I refocus and put my energy into exposing the on-going crime of medical negligence in these jails? Do I begin a campaign to highlight the illegal starvation diet in the Blount County jail, for which no one has been arrested? Do I join the effort to condemn the practice of overcharging mostly dirt poor inmates for phone calls, and commissary, so that corporations and counties receive greater kickbacks? Should I add my voice to those in this courthouse who show up protesting unjust sentences for nonviolent conspiracy charges? Or should I spend all of my time researching how many prosecutors, judges, attorneys, court clerks and law enforcement personnel who hold stock in the private prison industry, commissary companies, phone providers or medical contractors in these human warehouses? I see so many literal and moral crimes, and I’m just one person.
“My final answer is none of the above. I will continue to resist the ultimate crime of nuclear weapons and their production here and around the world.
“I heartily disagree with this court that Y12’s production of nuclear bombs does not equate to imminent nuclear war. I can tell you about the women I met in the jails who lost family members from cancer after exposure to radiation while working at Y12. The government pays $150,000 to those with cancer or to their family after a death, if they can prove Y12’s liability. Thousands of people are dead or dying from weapons production. How many deaths does it take to convince the courts that Y12 is killing its own in a nuclear war? How many does it take to name it a crime? In my mind— just one.
“I have just one life and there is so much to do.
“It doesn’t matter what my sentence is. If I am returned to jail, I’ll expose more crimes. If I am set free, I’ll expose more crimes.
“Now, it is your decision.” — Bonnie Urfer, Ocilla
John LaForge is the junior staff person at Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group, and edits its quarterly newsletter