In February, Madison resident Joy First and two others were arrested for an antiwar protest at Hilldale Mall. Last week, Municipal Court Judge Dan Koval sentenced them to 11 hours of community service, which they can perform at any 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Luckily for First, she's already volunteering for one: the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, which has organized some of the antiwar protests. First, who estimates she's been arrested about 20 times for antiwar activities, has used the group for her community service obligations in the past.
"I put down my number of hours and hand it in," she says. "Nobody's said anything."
First believes using her sentence to promote the cause for which she got in trouble makes perfect sense. "I think our country is in really bad shape right now," she says. "Speaking out against our government is the highest form of community service."
She praises Dane County as a good place to get arrested, compared to Washington, D.C. "There, the prosecutor wants to throw the book at us. Here it's much friendlier."
The day after First was sentenced to community service for the Hilldale action, she went back to the mall for another protest. She was not arrested, but police did ask her group to leave.
"My personal safety and comfort doesn't matter," she says. "I need to do this to make a better world for my children and grandchildren."