The 84-year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, is no stranger to activism. She has been protesting and wreaking havoc on sites that deal with nuclear power for decades. Now, she has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison.
She doesn’t seem to mind though, because she was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying that being in prison for an extended time would allow her “to serve the other women in prison.”
“Please have no leniency on me,” Rice told the judge. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me.”
In prison, Rice said she learned to see her fellow inmates not as perpetrators but as “victims” of a system that gave them few options.
Regardless of her preferences or beliefs, on Tuesday, a U.S. Judge sentenced her to 35 months in prison for breaking into a Tennessee defense facility where enriched uranium for nuclear bombs is stored, known as the Y-12 National Security Complex. Both of Rice’s accomplices, Michael Walli, 65, and Gregory Boertje-Obed, 58, received 62-month terms, more than Rice because of their previous acts of civil disobedience. All three were collectively fined in excess of $53,000 for damages.
The catalyst to this escapade, strangely enough, created some serious embarrassment when the facility, also known as the country’s Fort Knox of uranium, was so easily accessed.
Rice and her cohorts decided to stage a protest to draw attention to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Outdated cameras and fences couldn’t prevent the three elderly people from damaging what some believe was an extremely secure facility, raising questions about how they might restrain professional thieves with less idealistic intentions.
Some members of Congress even thanked Rice and her accomplices for bringing the Y-12 facility’s security problems to the nation’s attention.
The three activists were prepared for the worst. “We were very aware that we could have died,” Rice said.
Their activism was twofold. It brought attention to the easily accessible arsenal of nuclear weaponry, as well as to drew attention to the U.S nuclear stockpiles.
Rice called it “hypocritical” to demand other countries to disarm, when in 2008, for example, the U.S. was spending at least $52 billion a year on nuclear weapons, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And only 10 percent of that spending is devoted to disarmament.
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