Megan Rice celebrated her 85th birthday last week — in a high-rise detention center in Brooklyn.
The Catholic nun is serving nearly three years in prison for evading security and painting peace slogans on the walls of a nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Rice is far from the only religious figure to run into legal trouble. There’s a long tradition of Catholic clergy protesting nuclear weapons, from the Berrigan brothers in the 1980s to the fictional nun Jane Ingalls, featured in the series Orange is the New Black.
Rice, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, spent decades working and teaching in Africa. She too has a long history of protest, even before she allegedly joined two men to throw human blood and write slogans on a building that houses enriched uranium in 2012.
Things are even more complicated when it comes to women’s health care behind bars. That’s because advocates say every facet of the Bureau of Prisons system was designed for men, even though women are very different.
“The majority, the vast majority of women in federal prisons are not violent offenders,” says retired federal appeals court judge Pat Wald.
Wald says research demonstrates that incarcerated women need time with family members and friends, and special programs to help them get ready to leave prison. She says those are programs that seem to be unavailable for Sister Rice and others locked up in the Brooklyn facility.
Yale Law School Professor Judith Resnik has been studying prisons for more than 30 years. She says the best solution is for authorities to look, case by case, at the inmates holed up in Brooklyn.
“A national review of those incarcerated with the end state of asking who need not be here or who could be in a less secure facility would be the desired end state,” Resnik says.
Read more at Supporters Say Imprisoned Nun Is Being Held In ‘Unfair’ Conditions