What I learned from my stay in prison
January 01, 2020 by Extinction Rebellion
The van is cold and uncomfortable. We wait outside the prison gates for what seems like an age. My anxiety builds.
Eventually I’m led to the main process building. The staff are friendly. I’m escorted to a waiting room. Five other prisoners are chatting. We introduce ourselves. They ask me what I’ve done. When I explain, they become friendly and animated. Lots of thanks. I’m sitting next to another prisoner, who I will call May. She’s in her late twenties. I have a book with me called The Overstory and May talks excitedly about forests and the environment. After a couple of hours the guards escort us to our cells.
A prisoner who heard I’m a protester runs up to me and pushes bags of crisps and fruit into my hands.
As we enter the wing I’m taken aback by the level of noise. Voices compete with clunking keys and slamming doors. We are led to simple cells. When the door slams and the key turns, my anxiety rises. I read and let my mind drift.
I become friends with May. She
told me about a book she read about
a girl who occupied a tree. Life can be
extremely strange. On release I give
my books to May and we hug and say
goodbye. I will never forget her and
I want to tell her everything will be okay. I hope so much that she finds peace.
Angels do exist. I was met by one as I walked through the prison gates. They don’t come with wings. They come in the shape of an elderly lady who greets and buys every released prisoner a cup of coffee or tea, and walks with them to the train station.
One of my hopes in joining Extinction Rebellion was that the struggle to avert climate breakdown would result in humanity at last learning to live in harmony with the natural world, resulting in a happier and fairer society for all people and all life on our beautiful planet.
On release I felt the full force of that and what it means to be in service to something far bigger than ourselves.