Out Of The Mailbag: No Kosher Food Given At County Jail

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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.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Parent of and Orthodox Inmate.




10 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry to hear about your son. May Hashem show rachamim and me matir assurim very quickly.

    As for your current plight. Nothing seems to get the wheels moving quicker than an all-american lawsuit.

    There are probably tons of organizations (not just Jewish ones) who deal with such 1st amendment issues who would love to handle the case.

    Hatzlacha

  2. You should google “Take America back”, which is part of the Tea Party movement, they are more understanding of conservative issues, like when liberals stop people from observing their religion (other then radical Islam which the liberals are so vocal about protecting).

    Especially if they could use this an issue which which to show the seculars do not care about individual rights like they claim to.

    They could be a very powerful ally in bringing enough public pressure to force the jail; to make sure your son gets kosher food and highlight this proplem for Jews in jail, in general.

    It can’t hurt to try.

  3. Try contacting your city/ state representatives. Often elected officials often can open doors that we cannot (at least in the state I live in).

  4. I’m sorry about your son’s situation. Have you tried Chabad in Atlanta? I looked up the number and saw thid one: 404-643-2464 Hatzlacha.

  5. the situation in the dekalb jail IS horrible and they are very unsympathetic. I know someone who was there on Pesach- and literally starved. they wouldn’t give them fruits or anything which they could eat and they literally couldn’t eat anything besides water for days. besides being the only jewish person there, the person i know was the only white person there, and felt very uncomfortable. there isn’t much you can do other than daven and try to pull strings. hopefully your son will be released soon.

  6. I was looking online for resources and found this letter about a similar situation in Georgia with another frum yid. I hope and pray its better in DeKalb than in Gwinnett:

    Letter to the Editor

    Sept. 16, 2007

    Gwinnett Daily Post
    25 Old Norcross Road
    Lawrenceville, GA 30045

    To The Editor,

    For the eighth straight year, Ed Kramer spent the start of the Jewish High Holidays at home, alone. Each year, Ed Kramer has requested to the Court to participate in services among his peers. And, for each of the past eight years they have been declined (or partially approved such that his participation would violate all precepts of Jewish law). Members of other faiths, however, accused
    of crimes in Gwinnett County – including murder – have been permitted without restriction to participate in services of their faiths. Why was Ed different?

    On August 25, 2000, Ed voluntarily drove to the Gwinnett Police Station to talk to an officer after an anonymous call left with family services the previous morning questioned his relationship with two teens he’d helped. Implausibly, the police rushed to their school just moments after the call; yet, transcripts of their taped interviews deny abuse. Next, they descended on their mother, but somehow forget to tape the interrogation, so we will never know what was said.

    Accusations of abuse happen daily in Gwinnett County. Investigations take months, and when arrests are made, very few make the news, and often vanish without a trace. Erik Cooper was one. After a lengthy investigation, he faced 180 years in jail stemming from numerous charges from many of the foster kids he’d kept over the years. A Gwinnett jury later acquitted him on every count, after it became appeared that each young man was manipulated into saying things they knew were not true. Ronald Shelton’s case was another; again, many manipulated youth, resulting in a full acquittal.

    Little more that 24 hours after the innocuous phone message, Ed met with police, without an attorney present, and was arrested. He put his innocence on record, and even offered to submit himself — on the spot — to a police polygraph exam, but it was declined (DA Danny
    Porter later used this same lie detector exam to toss out a rape accusation on a Gwinnett minister against his own 4-year-old nephew, despite medical evidence to the contrary). They next arrived at Ed’s house loading up box after box with a wide assortment of items.

    Police proudly announced that they had confiscated over 200 pornographic films from Ed’s home, and made rolls of commercially developed photos he took to sound the same. However, none of these were ever produced in court. My husband (Ed’s younger cousin) and I had been to Ed’s home; we knew this couldn’t be true. It wasn’t. After the Gwinnett Court threw out the videotapes from “evidence,” DA Danny Porter appealed. Two years later the Georgia Court of Appeals conceded that the videos not pornographic, and picked as their representation of Ed’s
    collection ‘The Blues Brothers’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Gladiator’, and most appropriately, ‘Conspiracy Theory.’ The Court also ruled that the entire search warrant’s description was “so open-ended, that it was in violation of both the Georgia and United States Constitutions.”

    Ed was denied bond; the District Attorney testified that he had “no ties to the community” (one of the requirements for denial). Ed was an Emory College and Medical School graduate, Gwinnett home-owner, businessman, and a Georgia resident for over 20 years, with his elderly Mother living a mere ten miles
    away. Six witnesses took the stand in defense of Ed, but Judge Debra Turner declared that Ed posed a “significant threat to the community.” In 2006, when Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department announced it had charged six men with
    aggravated sexual battery, aggravated child molestation, and statutory rape for their video-taped rape of a 12-year-old, DA Danny Porter allowed several out on
    bond despite an FBI videotape of the offenses alleged, after attorney Ed Garland said his client was an “outstanding businessman with an impeccable career and
    character,” that he had no idea the girl was underage, and therefore not a risk.

    Gwinnett Attorney John Matteson (who has no connection to Ed) has offered: “Gwinnett is a profoundly racist, anti-Semitic and corrupt county that hides behind a carefully fabricated facade (to the contrary).” From
    the beginning, Ed was presented to Court as an “orthodox Jew” by the arresting officer; it was probably the only
    truthful statement ever placed on record about him. His case was assigned to Judge Dawson Jackson, then enigmatically reassigned to Judge Debra Turner, the only Gwinnett Judge who had converted from Judaism to Christianity. Mr. Matteson raised the question of Anti-Semitism, telling Atlanta Jewish Life magazine, “Debra Turner is very likable and that’s what makes her so deadly.”

    Blatant anti-Semitic remarks were routinely made by Ed’s jailers, documented in sworn testimony – not by Ed – but by others who watched his mistreatment firsthand: “The sheriff’s department is going to hang that Jewish son-of-a-bitch.” “If you don’t want to swing with him, you’d better stay away form him or you could end up swinging from the same rope.” And, after bible study was canceled by a Deputy because Ed was asked to speak on Judaism,
    “I refuse to allow a Jewish Christ killer to attend.” Rev. Thomas Coley told the Atlanta Jewish Life, “The anti-Semitism there was horrendous. As a black detainee there’s only one thing that I can think that would’ve been worse for me — and that’s if I was Jewish.”

    While incarcerated, Ed was the subject of an assault. It was premeditated, witnessed, and even the Sheriff’s Deputies joked about it. Gwinnett resident David Foster watched a masked Sheriff’s Deputy slam Ed’s head into a into a reinforced cinder block wall hard enough to leave a golf-ball size extrusion on his forehead. Rev. Coley told Atlanta Jewish Life that one of the deputies admitted to him that the assault happened. “This deputy was telling me that they damn near broke his neck and he was happy about it,” recalls Coley. An MRI ordered by the jail showed a spinal cord injury, yet the jail had Ed
    sleeping on the floor and refused to give him a mattress or a pillow when one became available, according to sworn affidavit. Ed’s physician, who examined the injuries, called the situation “disastrous.”

    In a recent interview in the Gwinnett Daily Post, DA Danny Porter blamed Ed’s injuries on an auto accident occurring 3 years later, despite jail and medial
    records to the contrary. Saying that any court came to that conclusion was gross misstatement, to which Porter was well aware. Ed’s legal date of disability was set by a Federal Court to his Gwinnett incarceration. One
    reporter, Benyamin Cohen, sought copies of the state-required incident report where Ed was assaulted, but found they didn’t exist (or the jail couldn’t seem
    to locate them). Yet, records of the assault do exist, and are present in the Court record. Furthermore, Porter’s supposed “investigation” neglected to
    include any of the eye-witnesses, who still live in Gwinnett.

    Ironically, several months after the Deputy disabled Ed in the assault, my husband and I sat with Ed’s mother and his Rabbi as they waited for him to come out of cervical spine surgery (the first of many to follow) at Northside Hospital, yet his elderly mom was prevented by Judge Turner from even seeing him in the recovery room or intensive care unit. It was a heartbreaking task to try to explain to her that she would be responsible for sending “her baby” back to jail if she set foot across the threshold of his room, even just to touch him. In fact, Ed’s mom was prevented by Judge Turner from visiting him for nearly his first two years of incarceration – even though he lived under home confinement. Even if Ed remained in jail solitary confinement, he would have at least had twice-weekly visiting privileges. Was any other accused in Gwinnett discriminated against as much?

    A little more about me. I’ve been happily married to Ed’s cousin for seven years – what some people consider a successfully long marriage. Ed was incarcerated shortly after our wedding – nearly our whole life together. I work
    for a construction company – which means I am well acquainted with the “Good ‘Ol Boy Network.” I am also a semi-professional actress and director in my spare time. I’ve been at it for over a decade, so I can spot bad acting a mile a way. DA Danny Porter postures in the Gwinnett Daily Post that Ed is to blame for over
    seven years of delays in his case coming to trial. I know this to be a bald-faced lie, and Mr. Porter is a very bad actor. Back in November, I sat in a Gwinnett courtroom and watch a badly rehearsed play unfold where Judge Turner
    first released the attorney that Ed had already paid in full, then asked Mr. Porter to appoint Ed a public defender.

    Had the Court wanted Ed to stand trial, it most certainly would not have effectively fired his attorney against his will. Mr. Porter also conceded in testimony that he, alone, was responsible for setting the Court calender, so
    that the years of delays appeared carefully planned by his office (Good Ol’ Boy Network?). I was also stunned to hear Mr. Porter bring up Ed’s religious worship derogatorily in a motions hearing where no mention of worship was discussed (I understand from Ed that he did it again in May.) The quote that floored me was, “He can’t have his religious holidays and his day in court,
    too.” Did an educated man actually say that?! This is all too reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s faux pau at a traffic stop. Then, Judge Debra Turner offered to recuse herself from the trial because of – guess what – previous anti-Semitic issues. Surely, Porter must realize that a new Judge and counsel could only delay things even more.

    I first pondered why Gwinnett County would want to delay Ed’s trial further, but there was something nagging me even more. Why does DA Daniel Porter, a publicly elected official and CourtTV sweetheart, need to lie at all? Why did Mike Nifong have to? Then, it came to me: It’s because the facts of the case against Ed could never stand up in court. If the case was based on truth, then why pepper it with lies so egregious that anyone knowledgeable of the facts could see right through it? Maybe, its because it’s the best they possibly can do.

    So who is the real victim here? Well, most certainly Ed is. Mike Nifong’s three victims in the Duke Lacrosse case have now sued for $30 million for stealing a single year of their young lives. How much are seven worth, compounded with permanent disability? How about Ed’s friends? They are certainly victims, not being able to associate with Ed for what will be almost a decade. And, the kids themselves, brainwashed into thinking that someone that would mentor them, would also harm them. But there’s a larger victim – society itself. With every
    underhanded delay of what should, constitutionally be a “fair and speedy trial,” our citizens lose faith in our justice system. With each additional false accusation of child abuse, there will be fewer adults who will risk helping a child in need.

    – Tami Scheinman
    Gwinnett County, Georgia

  7. Call me at the Atlanta Scholars Kollel. I have some ideas that might help. My phone number is 404-321-4085. I’ll start making calls.
    Marcia

  8. The Aleph Institute mentioned in the article is truly a remarkable chesed organization. They do so much for the tragic (and surprising) number of Yidden in US Federal prisons, r”l.

    On top of that, fund-raising is, not surprisingly, quite a challenge considering the initial negative reaction many people have to their limited charity donations being used to benefit “criminals”.

    However, as Rabbi Shalom Lipskar (the founder) has explained, Aleph also helps the families (children) of prisoners. They are not convicted of crimes, but suffer just the same.

    I’ve been donating to them for years, though, B”H, I’ve not needed their services and I hope I never do.

  9. I live in Georgia and worked for the Correction Department. you shold call the Georgia State Omsbudsman’s Office in Atlanta and file an official complaint. This agency carries a lot of weight.