Prisoners on War Tax Resistance

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By Norm Lowry

Poster’s Note: Norm Lowry receives the NWTRCC newsletter at the State Correctional Institution Dallas in Pennsylvania where he is held. He shares the newsletter with other prisoners, so in correspondence I asked if he would report on reactions to our work from other readers at SCI Dallas. I will send comments to Norm to share with his peers and perhaps we can continue a discussion.

“While the government seems never to run out of money for guns, bombs and planes,
prisons seem never to run out of cells to put somebody in.”

— Herman Bell, 43+ years in prison, most of it in solitary confinement, for being black

Kaytee Riek, Creative Commons Flickr

For nearly eight years now, I’ve been purposefully investing my time in prison, with yet another group of America’s disposable persons. I came to prison for molesting military property and for trespassing. There are fifteen months remaining on my Pennsylvania state sentence. I am not sorry for one moment of it all.

Among my imprisoned peers, there main groupings of concerns and questionings arise, regarding war tax resistance:

First, as demographically, 80%+ of all U.S. crime is white collar yet 80%+ of all U.S. prison beds are filled with blue collar offenders, this grouping of peers asks — “Since the so-called illicit ‘war on drugs’ and ‘war on crime’ are perpetually used as excuses to harvest disproportionate numbers of minority and low-level offenders, does your tax group genuinely care for us?” “Are our rights as important as those of the people of the myriad lands against whom our society perpetually wars?” “Do you support economic and ethnic justice for us, too? “Will you forgive us as freely as you seem to forgive our society’s oppressive leaders?”

Second as demographically the overwhelming majority of effective criminal legal work is done by imprisoned and permanently imprisoned inmates, this grouping of peers asks — “Do you care about our legal rights as much as your care about your own legal rights and personal comforts?” “Are you at all concerned that our society’s so-called criminal justice system addresses its convictions rates by extorting folks into accepting plea bargains (30%+ of which have no basis in reality). In 9 out of 10 cases, under direct threat of more excessive punishment?” “Do you care or even think about the sheer disproportionate numbers of minorities imprisoned or elderly folks who’ve served 30-40-50+ years in prison already?” “Do you largely consider folks trapped in prison as deserving it, or as victims of yet another unjust and unfair war?

Third, is a grouping of peers imprisoned for taking stands against societal ills — from violence, to racism, to bigotry, to impoverishment. This grouping of peers asks – “How can we best show our support for each other and become informed on the issues as each other sees them?” “How can we work together to pay closer attention to and address the effects of our societies domination systems?” “What can we better do to educate others (and each other) on how we see diplomacy, violence vs. nonviolence, negotiation and peace?” “Where can we find the strength and fortitude to learn to become servants to each other, rather than destroyers of life itself?”

Norman Lowry received a sentence of seven years for returning to block the entrance to an army recruitment center after two other jail terms of seven months and eighteen months. Mennonite peace activists in Pennsylvania visit and support him, as do many others. The condition for parole set by the judge was that Norman promises not to disrupt the recruitment center again. 

Download and use this flyer as one way to make the connections

 — Post by Ruth Benn

One thought on “Prisoners on War Tax Resistance”

  1. Ginny Schneider says:

    I imagine that many WTRs identify with prisoners and imprisonment more than many in the general population because we have made a decision that our nonviolent civil disobedience may land us in jail (albeit a slim chance). The work that I do around campaign finance reform and voter access directly connects to my concern about the prison-industrial complex not to mention my WTR.

    I have never even thought of forgiving oppressive politicians. I work daily to oppose their policies and to remove them from office.

    From my standpoint, how we treat people out in the world and in prison is a reflection of our society as a whole. The reflection I see is insidious and rotten to the core. We need to change the laws on the books and help those prisoners and families who have been victimized by the system to heal and have access to resources to rebuild their lives destroyed by this corruption. The criminal “justice” system needs to be pressured to look at each person as an individual and work with people to ensure that those who are innocent are not punished and those who have committed crimes (not based on current law but on revised laws that remove nonviolent acts (eg, drug use) from the books) have the opportunity to craft solutions that will return whole, healthy people to society.

    How would you like to work with the WTR community to build solidarity and how can we help you?

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