With a smile on her face, Durham mother and peace activist Beth Brockman slid her hands behind her back and cooperated with the sheriff's deputy who handcuffed and arrested her Aug. 6 for blocking a road leading to the entrance to the Department of Energy's Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Brockman, the mother of two young children, was arrested along with 14 others during a protest marking the 60th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima, at a plant known as the nation's "last full-scale operating nuclear weapons production plant." ("Mom may be jailed as part of Hiroshima protest," Independent Weekly, Aug. 3, 2005, indyweek.com/durham/2005-08-03/triangles2.html)
Brockman, 42, spent three nights in the Anderson County Jail before pleading no contest to her charges in court last Tuesday.
Brockman was sentenced to time-served and 30 days unsupervised probation for her first offense. She was also assessed a $25 fine, court costs and $50 per day for her time in jail. Her total bill from the court was $330.25. Brockman said she has not decided if she is going to pay the bill.
More than 1,000 protesters converged on Y-12 after a two-mile march on a sweltering day for the annual protest that is organized by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, a group that has been leading opposition to the Y-12 plant since 1988.
Brockman, a member of Durham's First Presbyterian Church, said her time in jail was "exactly what I expected." It was overcrowded, cold and "the food sucked," she said. Brockman said she did not have a bunk so she slept on a mat on the floor. She did, however, enjoy being on a cellblock with several of the women she was arrested with.
Brockman, who had considered pleading not guilty and asking for a jury trial, changed her mind while in jail. The decision to plead no contest was "a really difficult decision," she said. "I took the step I needed to take at this point in my life. It was a really big step for my family, and it was a big enough step."
Being apart from her family was the "hardest aspect" of her ordeal, Brockman said.
Jail "was OK for three days," she said. "I just didn't eat very much while I was there." Jail for any extended stay would be very unhealthy, she said.
"It's so overwhelming, and it does nothing to help with rehabilitation. I'm not rehabilitated."