Dear YWN Editor,
My son was arrested on Wednesday, June 2 in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently sits in the Dekalb County Jail.
He has spent the fourth night in a row in a holding cell with 63 other inmates. He has slept on the floor because of severe overcrowding, and, despite my desperate phone calls to the jail morning, noon, and night; and despite my phone calls to Sheriff Tom Brown, neither I, nor the kind and competent Dr. Joseph Crespin from the Aleph Institute, have succeeded in getting my son Kosher food.
According to Federal Law (Section 42, Chapter 21c), my son is guaranteed access to Kosher food and religious materials.
He has neither.
On Thursday night, after more than 24 hours without any food, I finally got hold of one Sergeant at the Jail, who took pity upon my son and made him two peanut-butter and Jelly sandwiches.
My son has lost approximately ten pounds in the four days that he has been incarcerated there, and has been receiving only small packages of peanut butter and slices of plain bread to get by. He told me he is now sick and weak.
All week I have been trying to get help, but the jail either does not answer its phone, or they say they will “call back,” and they seldom return the call in a timely manner.
This morning, I called again and reached the Sergeant on Duty who said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am. We don’t provide any Kosher food at the Jail.”
It is like trying to communicate something important to Queen Esther’s handmaidens—none of them know what the other is doing!
You may think that this will never affect you, that this is an issue for only a few religious Jews in a few places. I used to think that too.
This isn’t just a “Rubashkin” issue, it is something we must all pay attention to. Your son or daughter may be arrested (G-d Forbid!) for any small offense, and you will find that whether they are guilty or not, your son or daughter will have to choose between their religion and starvation. This should not be happening in America.
If you want to get involved, or you are looking for a worthy cause to donate to, consider the Aleph-Institute. Not only do they help religious people in jail, they also assist religious members of our armed services.
A Concerned Parent of and Orthodox Inmate.