Prisoners & Probationers of Conscience
Throughout the history of SOA Watch’s yearly vigils at the SOA/WHINSEC at Ft. Benning, Ga., various participants have chosen to take direct action by breaking federal law and trespassing onto the military base. After prayerful consideration and discernment, several Sisters of Providence have chosen to cross the line in this manner in protest of the school and have faced legal repercussions for their actions including house arrest, mandatory community service, probation and jail time.
Sister Kathleen Desautels
Sister Kathleen Desautels crossed the line in November 2001. She was found guilty on federal trespassing charges and served a six-month sentence at the Federal Prison Camp-Greenville (Ill.). Released in March 2003, Sister Kathleen remains committed to her mission and to working to close the SOA/WHINSEC.
“If loving peace and doing civil resistance to bring attention to this Gospel call is a crime, I’m glad to be called guilty,” she says. “Being a prisoner of conscience or being a probationer of conscience is being part of a growing community of peacemakers willing to do a non-violent act of civil disobedience. I prefer to think of it as faithful obedience to the Gospel call for love, mercy and justice.”
Read the original March 10, 2003, press release: “Sister of Providence released from prison.”
Sisters Adele Beacham, Rita Clare Gerardot and Joann Quinkert
Along with 93 other protestors, three Sisters of Providence were arrested on federal trespassing charges on November 17 2002 for crossing an arbitrary line at Fort Benning, Ga. Sisters Adele Beacham, Rita Clare Gerardot and Joann Quinkert each were sentenced to 12 months probation. Sister Adele also was sentenced to house arrest and 250 hours of community service; Sisters Rita Clare and Joann received 500 hours of community service each.
At the time of their arrest, Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara (then General Superior of the Sisters of Providence) said, “We, the General Council of the Sisters of Providence, respect the choice of conscience of our sisters and support them with our love and our prayer. It is only through courageous acts such as theirs that others can be made aware of what the military arm of our government is doing in our names.”
Read the original press releases:
- Nov. 18, 2002: “Three Sisters of Providence arrested in Georgia for participation in non-violent protest at Army base”
- Jan. 16, 2003: “Three Sisters of Providence to stand trial Jan. 27 for crossing government line during non-violent protest.”
- Jan. 28, 2003: “Three Sisters of Providence receive sentences for trespassing during SOA protest.”