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Voices of Peace



Peg Morton's Letter from Prison: Moments of Quiet, Moments of Anger and Fear

A month of letters, a life of lessons

By Peg Morton

Posted on Jun 30, 2004

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June 5, 2004

Federal Prison Camp Dublin
Margaret M. Morton
Reg. No. 92102-020
5675 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA. 94568

Peg’s Letter # 15


“Memorial Day and More”

Well – I’m back after an absence of a couple of weeks. Have been responding to letters and beginning to plan my release and return to Eugene, and reading novels.

Less than four weeks to go, and the days and weeks pass quickly. My release date is Friday, July 2, and my plan is to arrive on the train July 6. The weather is gorgeous, and there is a place in the corner of our lovely little park where I can sit alone, gazing at the cedar outlined against the blue sky, the birds, the sunset, or perhaps reading a book.

Memorial Day weekend was fun. My daughter Do Mi and granddaughter, Ally, came down from Eugene, and came out two times. Then we celebrated the holiday. Women spread out sheets and sat at picnic tables in the park, many of them crocheting – slippers, blankets, clowns. Dance music blasted and we danced. The high point for me was the “bootie dance,” the women’s alternative to break dancing. A team of white women approach a team of black ones, shaking their boobs and their buns to the music. One woman approached another, and they shook together in a kind of competition. It was hilarious, and drew cheers and applause.

But in prison, the other side of the coin is always present:

– The sister of one of my frends dies of cancer. She was not granted permission to visit her in her illness. We, her friends, are there to listen and support as best we can. But she carries this burden alone. “Jesus walked this lonesome valley. . .”

– A woman in my “pod” talks, streaming tears. Her two young children are in foster care. She has just learned that her aunt has been denied that privilege. The children are doing well where they are. Our friend is incarcerated for slightly over a year. She informs us that in Hawaii, if your children are in foster care for over a year, you lose your parental rights permanently. Angela is light-skinned, tall, big woman. She is supportive of us all, has a great sense of humor, and works her tail off in landscaping – the case is in court. Perhaps her parental rights will be extended. We listen, we give support. But she too must walk this path alone. “No one else can walk it for her...“

– I am involved in a personal conflict. I feel hurt and resentful. Where are my conflict resolution skills? I am not proud of my response and am humbled. Many give me support. But I, too, walk this path alone, and must be the one to learn.

So often I have felt the need for Alternatives to Violence training here. Not only for inmates, but also for guards and other staff. We need AVP and similar programs throughout our society – the prisoners, the military, the police, you and me. These are precious skills. Precious, and they take time and lots of practice to build.

Lovingly,

Peg




Sunday, June 6, 2004

Federal Prison Camp Dublin
Margaret M. Morton
Reg. No. 92102-020
5675 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA. 94568

Peg’s Letter #16 June 6 – “Fear”

Sometimes my mind twists and swirls, full of anxieties and fears, small matters, compared to the big picture. I can find my soul squeezed down. There are the details of my exit from prison; my personal conflict unresolved; even personal business not needing my attention. Fears.

How easy it is to give fear control. I am thinking of this past week:

-The loudspeaker bellows: “All orderlies should be in their work areas for census.” I have finished my cleaning work but feel trapped, unable to use this time productively. No one comes. There is no census. I have stayed there an hour, fearing consequences.

-The loudspeaker bellows, the following day: “All orderlies be in your units for inspection.” Again. I sit for an hour, my cleaning work completed, fearing the consequences if I leave. There is no inspection.

-I am at last, Friday, in the Law Office, typing. A counselor opens the door and points to my water mug: “No food or drink in the Law Office! Return to your unit.” I return and sit for an hour, then realize that nothing will happen if I go back. Fear of consequences.

– We rush about, wiping cabinet tops and window sills, inspecting beds, cleaning. Will we fail inspection for the third time? What will be the consequences? Can we have the t.v. put back? Fear.

- I make a deal with another inmate: She will crochet me a beautiful tote bag, and I will purchase items for her in the commissary. This kind of arrangement is made all the time, and is one way that people with no or little commissary money can get supply needs met. But it is illegal. You are only supposed to buy from your own commissary account. I pick up my order for yarn and some supplies at the commissary. The officer states: This is contraband.” Fear, although my common sense knows that everyone, staff and inmates, shrug at this infraction.

Long-term inmates seem able to respond without fear. They have been sent to the SHU (Special Housing Unit – isolation cells); they have been returned to the C4 crowded entry unit. They have been given “shots" for infractions. They are not phased by the power trips of some officers, their threats, their write-ups. They take the consequences – cleaning or landscaping on the weekend, the SHU. These are all just a part of prison life.

I can learn from them. And what of all the terrorist threats that we are bombarded with through the media? Family fears for sons and daughters in the military? The fears of not enough to live on? Our society, our world, is wracked with fear. I wonder how does that effect our cumulative soul?

Again, let me express my gratitude for your interest and support!

Peg




June 13, 2003

Federal Prison Camp Dublin
Margaret M. Morton
Reg. No. 92102-020
5675 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA. 94568

Friends—

My deep apologies for my lack of good communication about visits. It seems that one thing after another goes wrong, and people get turned away. Virginia and Gene were turned away on Friday, after traveling up from Salinas. They came by public transportation, carrying a purse and a wallet – NOT allowed. There is no place to store them. After all that, they were turned away.

So Friends, if you are visiting, don’t bring anything except coins and dollar bills in a see-through plastic bag, and an i.d. You can store other things in the car. If you don’t have a car, tough luck. THe other prisons on the property have storage units; ours does not. There apparently is a storage unit at the BART.

On Saturday, I had two good visits, no problem – David and Lisa. Today, Sunday, Vern , Bhavia’s friend, was on my list, and was admitted. However, there was an exception made, since he was wearing khaki pants. Our prison color is blue, so that is unacceptable also, except jeans. Khaki is probably the inmate color in the bigger prison.

However, Bhavia was not admitted. She is not yet on my list. We were both disappointed. We were allowed to talk briefly and hug. Then she waited in the car. I had a wonderful visit with Vern.

I want to thank those visitors who have made it in. They have been good listeners, and I have been able to sometimes express deep feelings and thoughts that I haven’t been able to bring up and express in my life here.

As of now, Teresita, Jim Wood, Linda, Shauna, Barbara, and Ted have been accepted.

Much love,

Peg



June 21, 2004

Federal Prison Camp Dublin
Margaret M. Morton
Reg. No. 92102-020
5675 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA. 94568

Peg’s Letter #20, June 21 (Summer Solstice): “Weekend Impressions”

It’s Monday, and I’m looking back at the weekend.

On Friday afternoon, about 7 women turned up in our entry unit – C4, transported on planes used by the BDP. Pasty faces, tired, they walked in. It was a long day, sitting with handcuffs, shackles and seat restraints, plus mechanical difficulties, not more than a small snack. One woman, transported from Seatak, the federal detention center in Seattle, told me she had been there 19 months. She was breathing in the fresh air here, the freedom to be outside. At Seatak, you get one hour in a walled-in courtyard three times a week. Wire mesh covers the yard, air is filled with smoke from cigarettes. I am learning how much I take for granted in my privileged life.

That evening I rambled around some: By a quiet woman crocheting by her bed, finishing an “M&M” doll for her 3-year-old son. His smiling picture was on the bulletin board behind her head. I wandered over to the Recreation Center, to find a group of women around a table, painting cartoon characters on a large piece of brown paper, a decoration for “Children’s Day” next Saturday. (Children are invited to come and spend the day.) There were five or six women in the pottery room, working with a variety of lovely pots in a variety of stages.

Sunday afternoon, our little service and Bible sharing under the guidance of Chaplain Hoch, our Protestant chaplain. We are becoming a little community, sitting in a circle, and I have appreciated Chaplain Hoch’s openness.

The sister of one of our unit companions is also here, and her 19-year-old son is a medic with the Army in Iraq. One of the women encouraged all of us to write him letters, and she gathered some 37 to send.

On Sunday evening I had been invited to a party for one of my friends who is leaving, and had a good time. Besides conversation and food cooked creatively in microwave ovens, there was Native American music and dancing. I got to join the “Friendship Dance” and watch some “Fancy Dancing.” The women who did that used a sweatshirt instead of a shawl. That didn’t matter.

Just now, I’ve been downstairs to survey some crocheted friendship blankets. Each woman crocheted 20 squares and distributed them around. Even with a limited selection of colors, they are beautiful.

Love and friendship to all,

Peg



June 21, 2004

Federal Prison Camp Dublin
Margaret M. Morton
Reg. No. 92102-020
5675 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA. 94568

Dear Friends and Family, one and all-

Just a note to say that it is time for you to stop writing to me.

I can’t say how important all the letters, notes and cards have been to me. Beautiful pictures look down at me as I lie in my lower bunk. Even though many of you stopped writing at my embarrassment at the overwhelming amount of mail, it still has kept coming, sometimes 20, sometimes as few as 5. I’ve learned again about the old art of correspondence. It has been a pleasure.

Leisa Barnes and I will be released on Friday, July 2. We are counting the days. We will be welcomed out by the local SOA Watch group and some local Friends (Quakers).

I will be spending two delicious nights in Quaker Center in Ben Lomond near Santa Cruz. Two nights of quiet, dark, uninterrupted sleep. Again, I have become much more aware of how much I take for granted in my privileged life. I will be visiting a friend in a nursing home in Santa Cruz, and another in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then a beautiful ride home, by Mt. Shasta and the Oregon Cascades, arriving home on the Coast Starlight on Tuesday, July 6.

Well, this is probably not my last letter, but it’s all drawing to a close.

Love to you all,

Peg



June 30, 2004

Federal Prison Camp Dublin
Margaret M. Morton
Reg. No. 92102-020
5675 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA. 94568

“Toni's Letter”

This is part of a letter written by Toni to her family that she shared. She authorized me to send it out. I was quite touched by it.

Love,
Peg




Here is an excerpt from Toni Letter #2
See Toni's Letter #11 which introduced us to Toni.

". . . . The kind of strength I’m learning is like no other I’ve learned in my life. The memories that carry through my mind of the past are blurry and weak. It’ll never compare to the clarity of my future. All the people that have been through my life has given me strength. From right or wrong, I’ve gained an experience. It’s serving me as a part of what’s keeping me alive and sound. It keeps me holding on to a life thats worth living. My weaknesses, I’m still scared to face, but now at least, I have the strength to be woman enough to go through it. It’s like a fire I must walk into, to get molded and shaped. It’s a gift to accept with an open heart and a strong will. I was once told – do some soul searching.

At that time, I didn’t have a clue where to start or how. During the course of my time, I’ve done plenty. I’ve learned to appreciate the moment, for this moment is only to be had now. Each day is a different time, feeling and thought. Each day is a sign of strength. Anywhere I am, at any given moment, the life I live is a sign of something. My experienc(es) are just mine, to share and give to someone else who is also living to find answers and have questions. Answers seem to come at their own convenience.

I live to be the best. The best at what? At living, by accepting today as it comes. I’ve learned that acceptance is not an easy place to be. But it’s an easier road or place when you’re accepting of people, places or things. Little did I know guys that acceptance needed to come from within. Nobody can take away all that I have within, for it’s a gift with my name on it.

I can’t change the past, but I can sure ruin the present if I worry over the future.

A strong woman won’t let anyone get the best of her, but a woman of strength gives the best of herself to everyone else. Prison has definitely changed your Auntie Toni into someone you don’t know, but I’m very confident you’ll like her.

I’m sorry for going away for so long, but I truly believe I needed this.

I just love you guys! I took recent pictures of me, and I’ll send them soon.

Much love,

Toni




Editor's postscript:

Peg Morton is due home to Eugene tomorrow. There will be a fine, old-fashion welcome for her at the train station. Many readers will miss the Peg's letters from prison about the brave women who endure and how the Spirit can be found anywhere.


Read about Peg Morton's spiritual journey in the pages of West By Northwest.org:

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: Counts & 'Shackles' and Bits & Pieces of My Life

This beloved Quaker grandmother is in prison for civil disobedience concerning School of the Americas protests and shares the joys and frustrations at Federal Prison Camp Dublin, California. Considered one of the better places in the federal system, sometimes there is excessive punishment and sometimes "I think we are being treated like naughty children – and in ways in which we would not want to treat our children. Resentment bubbles up inside me..." –¬Letters 13 and 14

May 29, 2004



Voices of Peace

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: Toni's Story

This Quaker grandmother went to federal prison with others to call public attention to the abuses of US power in Central America through the School of the Americas. A prisoner of conscience , she is also a witness to some of the current conditions in US prisons. In "Toni's Story" Peg lets Toni tell her story of life without trust or nurture and how it affected Toni the child, and Toni the woman: "We live in a section of a large room, seven us, four bunk beds, cabinets, several chairs, not much room to move around in the middle. Sometimes, especially as we wait for the 4:00 p.m.. or the 10:00 p.m. count, we laugh and joke. Sometimes bits of stories find their way into our midst, piecing themselves together, bit by bit."

May 20, 2004



Voices of Peace

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: Work, Babies and Conditions

Last fall, Peg Morton joined twenty-six other peace activists in "crossing the line" at the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. She and others made a choice of civil disobedience to call public attention and accountability to the shameful history of the school for dictators and its role in the affairs of Central America. Now serving a three-month sentence in federal prison, this Quaker grandmother writes of her observations of the life and people with whom she finds herself sharing prison life. Find out about the wages, singing and pesticide applications at Federal Prison Camp, Dublin, California.

May 7, 2004



Voices of Peace

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: We Are Many, We Are One

Last fall, Peg Morton joined twenty-six other peace activists in "crossing the line" at the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. She and others made a choice of civil disobedience to call public attention and accountability to the shameful history of the school for dictators and its role in the affairs of Central America. Now beginning to serve a three-monthe sentence in federal prison, this Quaker grandmother writes of her observations of the life and people with whom she finds herself sharing prison life.

Apr 26, 2004



Voices of Peace

A Cross and A Fence

Peace and social justice activist, mother and grandmother, Quaker writer Peg Morton has made many difficult stands for her witness. Now she faces federal charges and a potential prison term for her work to bring public attention to the need to close down the School of the Americas (now re-named Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). "I have been to Guatemala many times, have heard the stories of survivors and slept in their dirt-floored huts. But, as the procession continued and I gazed at the oncoming rows of people, my weeping became weeping of hope. I realized, deep inside, the strength and love in this mass of people, only a few of the millions around the world who are working, praying, marching for peace."

Dec 3, 2003



Voices for the World



Voices of Peace

Crossing The Line at Fort Benning: A Discernment Process

For many November means preparing for Thanksgiving. For others it means getting ready to return to Fort Benning. Ms. Morton shares her spiritual journey on the path for peace and social justice. She is at a crossroad of conscience concerning what kind of action to end a crime against humanity. "I was originally inspired to join the SOA Watch movement in 1999, upon meeting Sister Megan Rice on a delegation to Guatemala. She came from serving a 6-month sentence in prison for crossing the line, and has since then served another 6 months. She and other friends who have gone to prison continue to inspire me. I hold a firm belief that prisoners of conscience do inspire and feed the energies of the broad movement for peace and justice, for compassion. I am in my 70's, my children grown and in a position to take this risk and to serve time in prison."

Nov 8, 2003



Voices of Peace

We Sang, "O May We Never Rest Content till All Are Truly One"

An informative and inspiring testimony from peace and social justice activist Morton: She answered the call for help from Support Oregon Services Alliance (SOSA), a statewide coalition formed to save Oregon’s human services budget. She and others publicly fasted and more. Here she shares her experiences about the creative use of imaginative nonviolent actions, the real people and the place of action. "A fairly large number of Republicans joined the Democrats to pass a budget that would restore a significant amount of services...We were informed by some legislators that our presence outside the walls of the State Capitol was helpful in keeping them there, struggling for better results."

Sep 30, 2003



Voices of Peace

Statement of Faith on the Eve of Fast

For this past week a retired social worker has been fasting and praying and singing on the Capitol steps of Oregon for help for the thousands of people hurt by severe cuts to the state social services. One stone dropped into a pool has many ripples. So is Peg Morton affecting the state's budget stalemate. Soon the session will be over. Time is running out for thousands. Join Peg in Salem for the final days of her historic fast: "I believe that there is a solution, there must be a solution, to the woes of the Oregon state budget. Oregon is, in fact, a state with many resources and much wealth. Taxes must be raised, in ways that do not harm people of lower and middle incomes. Inappropriate tax loopholes must be closed. Long term tax reform towards a return to a progressive tax structure, including corporations, must happen."

Jul 26, 2003



Voices of Peace

Peg Morton Begins a Fast on Steps of Oregon's Capital

Peace and social justice activist Peg Morton begins her fast in Salem to focus public and lawmakers attention on Oregon state human services funding crisis. "The retired social services worker from Eugene, plans to eat only fruit and drink only water and vegetable broth, while living and sleeping on the Capitol steps." a link to OPB

Jul 21, 2003






© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By Northwest.org

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