They say it isn't a prision. On the website for Colchester detention centre they write "... this is not a prison, it's a military correction unit...". As if that sounds better. To me it doesn't. Military correction sounds harsh and unyielding. It sounds like a place where the individual doesn't count for much. It sounds like a place of stern, authoritarian punishment - a place where the concept of 'correcting human behaviour' is cold, technical and thorough.
Yesterday afternoon I spoke to Mike for the first time since he's been inside. He sounded okay. His courage covering up the fact that he wasn't okay. He's not free. That's not okay - especially when you consider what he's done - or refused to do.
There's a t-shirt in support of him somewhere on the net - I must get hold of it. It says "Free Michael Lyons - Refusing to Kill is Not a Crime". Brilliant. Surely Mike can't be one of the few human beings on planet earth capable of this insight? I mean, he's bright, there's no doubting that. But refusing to take up a rifle (an SA80 assault rifle, capable of killing a man/woman/child at 300 metres) and use it in anger - doesn't take a lot of brains surely...
It takes heart. A lot of it. Some people say he should never have gone into the navy if he felt that way. Well, he went in as a medic at the age of nineteen. He studied trauma medicine and battlefield triage. His baseline was that he was there to heal not to kill. Perhaps it sounds naive. And maybe it is. Or maybe it's such a simple, obvious truth that those of us who think we are mature have missed the point. Truth is simple as well as beautiful.
I didn't realise how much I've been holding back a ton of feelings about what he's going through. I've buried myself in work. The shock of his court martial and the following weeks of intense busyness provided a soft blanket around the reality of his situation.
But every day I think of him. They provide education in there and I know he's studying. But there's hard labour too. And of course, a military regime designed to 'correct' him. I wonder if he's being bullied because of his stand against war. I'm anxious about the physical training - he's in the navy - he's not fit like the army grunts who run the place.
So, all the fear, sadness and worry came out in a flood. I didn't want to cry on the phone. We only had ten minutes. I asked all the mum questions: What's the food like? Have you made any friends? Are you okay? And every question pulled me into the fact of what was happening. Because I've asked him the same things at every stage of his life. After school. In basic training. When he was stationed on a remote Pacific Island. But it felt so different to ask them because he's locked up. It felt painful and frightening and unjust. After all, people have threatened to attack him on the street because of what he's doing. Some people have even said he should be shot for his beliefs. There are a load of people who want to harm him for refusing to kill.
After the phone call, I got a call from the Padre (the vicar of the prison). He was kind enough. And he cheered me up in his own, rather jolly, military way.
But the fact remains. Mike's in prison for refusing to kill. What does that say about all of us in this country? What does it say about the human race? What does it say about the future?
This is one of the greatest anti-war films ever made.