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‘I have been arrested more than 30 times, but this is my first time in prison’

26 September 2022

Ruth Jarman, a Christian climate activist, writes about a week spent in custody

Vladimir Morozov 

Ruth Jarman (centre) and the Revd Tim Hewes (right) take part in a blockade of the Kingsbury Oil terminal this month, as part of a protest organised by Just Stop Oil

Ruth Jarman (centre) and the Revd Tim Hewes (right) take part in a blockade of the Kingsbury Oil terminal this month, as part of a protest organised b...

Ruth Jarman, a mother of three and a member of Christian Climate Action (CCA) (Interview, 21 May 2021), was in prison this week for blocking Kingsbury Oil terminal. She was arrested and imprisoned, along with five other members of CCA, three of whom are clerics. She has just been released from prison with a suspended sentence and a fine. Below, she writes about the experience.

I SIT cross-legged, cushioned from the tarmac by a garden kneeler, my vulnerability cushioned by the lines of orange-hi-vis-clad warm-hearted humans sitting to my right and left across the entrance to Kingsbury Oil depot. In front of me, a line of policemen in black and yellow, protecting their backdrop of squat white concrete vats of the shiny black liquid that both maintains our civilisation and will destroy it. I wonder how they feel about their job protecting this site from us, 51 ordinary people, armed with no more than knowledge and a sense of urgency for our future.

I sing the Taize chant “O Lord hear my prayer” quietly. I feel alive. This is my prayer — just being at this place, at this time, with these people.

The police vans start arriving. A rather nervous policeman, not much older than my teenage son, reads the injunction, and asks me if there is anything he can do to get me to move. My suggestion that he joins Just Stop Oil is not taken seriously, and I am soon sitting in a police car driving to Nuneaton Police Station.

I was later pleased to read an excellent précis of our conversation in my arresting officer’s witness statement: “She stated that something had to be done in order to start change within the world and this was why she believed that protesting and breaching the injunction was necessary.”

I have learned that the “rule of life” in custody is to expect nothing and to appreciate anything that you get. Perhaps this is the key to life, too. Being in custody can understandably be daunting; however, Nuneaton Police Station is five star for a police station — it has wash basins with drinking water in the cells! My tea, which took an hour to come, is warm and comforting.

I spend the evening exercising, reading, praying, and trying to learn Romans 13 by heart. The words “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” makes me smile — this is how I feel when I take action with the groups Christian Climate Action and Just Stop Oil. I sleep well.

Court is the following morning, and we say that we plan to break the injunction again in order to return to Kingsbury Oil terminal. We are told that we are to be remanded in prison until our hearing the following week. I have been arrested more than 30 times, but this is my first time in prison.

We are welcomed warmly by staff and two “peer supporters” at Foston Hall prison. My preconceived ideas about prisoners and prison guards are being shattered every day here. How good to be reminded that we are all made in the image of God!

It’s now four days in, and we leave tomorrow for court, and then, probably, release. I sit on my top bunk, six colourful A4 photos of our action, kindly provided in our injunction papers handed to us over the weekend, stuck on to our pinboard with toothpaste.

We are locked in our cell 23 hours a day (I just had to check that with my cellmate, as it doesn’t seem like it). We get our lunch and breakfast for the next day at a serving hatch between 11 a.m. and noon, which we bring back to our cells, and then have 30 minutes or so of “outside time”, when we jog or walk up and down the grassy area beneath our window. It is during this time that we can chat with fellow-protesters and other inmates.

Being here, among these kind, strong women, is extremely humbling. Despite the often difficult life circumstances which led to their arrival here, they are friendly and kind. They celebrated with us when we heard that our protest had made it into The Guardian.

At court, I read a mitigation statement, and was given a 30-day suspended prison sentence, with costs of £400.

I will be taking part in the Just Stop Oil actions in London in October. Please join me as we protect the future, trusting God and each other, hoping that God can do something with our trivial sacrifices, and persevere in love.


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