Here's Donna's thoughts about her impending arrest written last night..
How do I feel?
Thoughts of a pilgrim en-route to prison
My friends groaned with concern when they heard I would spend a few days in prison.
"Be careful," they advised with big eyes and a solemn tone, "you remember what happened on Prisoner."
Thankfully I never watched Prisner - that 1980s prison drama set in Cell Block C or D of some women's prison somewhere. But I do recall there were some big, butch, angry prison officers, and less than charming inmates whose tense interactions kept the attention of Australian viewers for many years.
So with a mind free from the unpleasant images my friends have of Cell Block C, I am going into this experience naively optimistic.
That's not to say it won't be damn hard. But not every experience that is hard is bad.
I'm in Darwin now (Wed). They took Bryan into custody on Tuesday so that's why I'm trying to get my thoughts together now - notes to people, instructions, what did I forget to do.
Just about everyone I have spoken to in the last month has asked me: How do you feel about going to prison?
So here's my thoughts and questions about prison:
I will be relieved when the strip search is over.
I am not as worried about what prison officers might say to me, as what I might say to them. You may have noticed I'm one who tends to speak my mind, whether invited to or not. If I think there is a situation that is de-humanising, I will most likely challenge it, in a friendly but firm manner. I have been encouraged to do this by experienced people, but don't worry; I will play it by ear!
I will not be allowed to bring in anything. My clothes and possessions will be taken and I will be issued with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, the colour of which will indicate which security risk I am: low, moderate or maximum. I am curious about which colour I will get, I am also curious about how the other prisoners will cope with the sight of my legs considering I have not worn a pair of shorts for 15 years!
I am disappointed I will not be able to watch the historic Government apology to the stolen generations on Wednesday, but what an interesting place to be - a prison in the Northern Territory where 85% of the prison population are indigenous. I will be curious about their opinion.
The questions I have in my head are simple, (perhaps the same as what you might ask) they include:
Will I be able to have a pen and paper (this will essential to keep me sane!)
Will they give me a toothbrush?
Will I share a cell with Adele, or someone else, or be on my own?
Will I have any privacy at all?
What will the other prisoners be like?
If I joke with the prison officers will it be well received, or frowned upon?
Can I have a cup of tea when I want to?
Will I get any sleep with the noises and lights?
Will I be rehabilitated? (just kidding!)
Will I hate it and try to organise a break-out?
Will I wish I had watched Prisoner as a child so I least I was more prepared?
Am I gonna cope?
My attitude is this:
I was not prepared to contribute financially to the Government's coffers by paying my fine, but in the tradition of civil disobedience I am prepared to take responsibility for my actions and accept the penalty of prison time in lieu of the fines.
It will be the next stage of a journey that started a long time ago. It is a journey that has a lot of meaning and purpose, and that's what I will draw on when I get frustrated.
I am treating the next five days as a kind of spiritual retreat. I have made a schedule of activities in my head that includes meditation, tai chi, exercise, gospel reading and journal writing.
I have connected with prison chaplains, and they will bring me books and company. I have requested to receive communion.
In the season of lent, a time of deeper spiritual discipline, what better place could I be? The desert of Cell Block C.
I am told we will be locked in our cells from 3.30pm until 8pm the next morning - sounds like a boring stretch but I am a contemplative - solitude and quietness is food for my soul.
I am wary, I am curious, I feel strong and I feel alive.
Speaking the truth to power, despite the consequences, is always liberating.
PS: I hope to get some messages out via the prison chaplains, if not, you might hear from me again on Monday.
PPS: "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God." Martin Luther.