- Exercise all your legal options – Make sure you’ve exhausted all the legal remedies available. If you can appeal, do so. If you have the money, spend it on a good lawyer (get a referral from a parent’s group in your area). Trust us, when you are sitting in a jail cell — the other legal options will look very good!
- Read the history of NonViolent Action, become familiar with current efforts — Look at the essays on NonViolent Action at the web site. If you wish to lead an effort read the biographies of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. They have our highest recommendations and will show you how they dealt with the problems you’re about to face.
- Approach your former spouse for resolution — Perhaps you weren’t the victim of this whole mess? Maybe your “ex” is not a fire breathing dragon who doesn’t care? Maybe you did and said things you shouldn’t have done. Clear your conscience. Let them know you just want to be an equal parent. Maybe you’ll be able to make a fresh attempt at mediation or counseling. Your attempt may not work — but it’s crucial to try. If you want to hold on to anger, STOP, Non Violent Action is not for you.
- Prayer & Reflection — This is about Faith. Your willingness to sacrifice your personal freedom to call attention to the unjust loss of your child. Do you have that Faith? Are you active in the religion of your choice? We all have our doubts, but are you more a believer than a skeptic? If you can’t answer yes to all these, STOP — this may not be the right approach at the present time.
- Take a personal inventory — Could you spend time in jail? The discomforts and lack of privacy? If you have prior military experience you should be fine — it is much easier than basic training. Can you keep smiling when bad things happen? Can you control your temper?
— Preparations and Review —
- Talk to family & friends — Tell them what you’re planning. Talk to your lawyer. Listen carefully as they try to talk you out of it. You don’t have to agree with them, but try to understand why. If you lose your temper with these people, STOP. You really want to hear all the “no” arguments now — believe us, they’ll all make a lot more sense if you are behind bars.
- Take care of your finances & property — Can you afford it? Do you have people on the outside who can help manage your affairs?
- Your child — We only recommend this if you’re “cut off” from a real relationship with your child. If you only have phone/mail contact with them. Just remember, you can usually only make collect calls. You need a friend with three-way calling, some staff may allow you to make a weekly call to your child using a jail phone (having a calling card number also).If you could be missing “visits,” try to explain that you are working so that you can see them more. The focus is “for them,” NOT “anti others.” Certainly, don’t tell them your spouse is to blame.
- Contact AKidsRight.Org — We have people who have been through it. They can give you valuable advice. The Group will also be able to help you with News Release support for publicity and a status page at our web site. It helps a lot if you have someone locally who knows you and can act as not only a spokesperson for media contacts, but also help develop material for News Releases and for our web site. This is crucial.
- Plan your action — whatever you choose to do it should be clear that you are trying to call attention to reform. One technique is to take some white card stock, app. 14” x 8″. Fold it like a greeting card and tape a 5 x 7 photo of you and your children on each side. Draw a heart on the other half. www.AKidsRight.Org across the bottom. It can be carried folded. You can use kid’s sidewalk chalk to leave messages on the pavement outside public buildings.
- Dress for the event — no T-shirts or jeans, use business attire. For men that means good slacks, white shirt, and tie. Wear comfortable shoes or white sneakers — you usually keep your footwear in jail. Good dress projects a professional image and will also get you “better handling” by police.
Remove all your jewelry. If you are arrested it will be stored by the jail and you don’t want to risk losing it. Have about $50 in cash. One key thing to bring is a single sheet of paper with names, addresses, and phone numbers of people you might want to contact in jail. Keep it in a pocket. Most “jailers” will pass it through, just tell them it has your lawyers and family members. Leave a copy with a friend who can mail it to you as a back-up.
- Do It — Be quiet and smile. Remember, don’t speak unless spoken to. Your actions will speak much louder than words. If asked why, “I’m just exercising free speech and the right to petition to my government.” THESE ARE VERY IMPORTANT WORDS. You are not protesting, demonstrating, picketing or loitering.
- At some point you will be threatened with arrest. Don’t argue, they are just doing their jobs.
- You will be asked, Why are you doing this? “I belong to a group working for Family Law Reform & Civil Rights. All I’m trying to do is get the chance to be an equal parent to my children whom I love. We are trying to get a Family Rights Act passed.” DO NOT talk about child support, how bad judges/lawyers are, or what a bad spouse you had. The message is one of LOVE.
- Some staff will get angry with you and slander you. What you are doing is stupid, do you think being jailed is going to help you see your kids, it won’t work … Quietly and with a smile, “Well, you may be right, but I really think this will make a difference.”
- If arrested, cooperate as best you can. After completing the arrest report (you will probably be charged with trespass), you may be surprised when they get ready to release you and give you an “appearance ticket,” e.g. trespass is almost like a speeding ticket, it doesn’t require you be jailed. TV celebrities get the “hand cuffs” put on and then walk out a short while later.
- BAIL. Bail is basically a guarantee that you will appear for trial. You should simply be ROR’d (Released On your own Recognizance). You are an honorable person, obviously you will make all Court dates. Since there is nothing wrong with what you are doing — you won’t delay in going back.
- The Effect/Real Example — People will initially see you as a threat, as another radical protester — not as a fellow parent struggling for your children. Your positive message and peaceful demeanor will help them change those attitudes. Not all, but many will certainly come to respect you.