web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘prison’

Death Row Inmate: ‘Kosher-like’ is Not Kosher’

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

An inmate on death row at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, has filed a hand-written lawsuit against the state claiming that that his right to practice freedom of religion is being violated — suddenly, after six years of incarceration.

Steven Hayes, 51, is claiming in his suit against the Connecticut State Department of Corrections that he is a practicing Orthodox Jew and is being denied kosher food, which he says he has requested since May 2013. (Hayes said he previously practiced Taoism, according to the Raw Story website.)

His Jewish status, however, seems to be rooted solely in his own belief; Hayes describes himself as a “self-converted Jew” and there are no claims of having a Jewish mother nor any documentation of any conversion according to Jewish law, which would mandate the necessity for him to receive kosher food. His knowledge of conversion apparently stems from discussions he had with a previous prison rabbi in the 1990s.

As is explained by the Jewish Prisoner Services International organization: “A Jew is one who has either been born Jewish or has been properly converted. One cannot become a Jew by simply declaring that he/she is Jewish, or by beginning to practice the Jewish faith.”

Regardless, Hayes says in his lawsuit, “This continuous denial of a kosher diet is a clear violation of my First Amendment right to freely practice my religion of choice, Judaism.” He also charges the Department with cruel and unusual punishment because he is forced to eat non-kosher food in order to survive. Hayes claims he has lost weight due to this issue, which prevents him from eating properly, according to reports published in the Hartford Courant and New Haven Register newspapers.

The inmate was convicted in 2010 for invading a home in Cheshire in 2007, where he assaulted and strangled a mother to death. He also attacked and murdered her two daughters, ages 11 and 17, tying them to their beds and then leaving them there while setting the house on fire. The children’s father, the lone survivor of the attack, was severely beaten but managed to escape. (Another man was involved in the crime as well.)

The prison kitchen has no strictly kosher certification, Hayes says in his lawsuit, and so he has asked for pre-packaged kosher food. Instead, he claimed, the kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.” But in his lawsuit, Hayes responded that “kosher-like is not kosher,” the Courant reported.

According to a separate report by the New Haven Register, Hayes has been consulting with and speaking with a prison rabbi. He has also asked for more time with the rabbi, the paper reported.

In addition, he has asked for $15,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for “intentional infliction of pain, suffering and resulting weight loss from the deliberate denial of a kosher diet.” Hayes also wants a trial by a judge. And a court order forcing the Department of Corrections to make sure pre-packaged kosher meals are provided to him – and to every other Jewish prisoner in the Connecticut penal system.

The attorney for Hayes, public defender Thomas Ullmann, says he is “happy he is finding some spiritual solace.” He adds, “This is what being on death row does. People are sitting in their cells, not doing anything, so filing federal lawsuits is the kind of thing that happens.”

The Department’s acting director of external affairs, Karen Martucci, says the lawsuit was referred to the Attorney General. A spokesperson from the A-G’s office, Jaclyn Falkowski, said in response to a query, “We are reviewing the complaint and will respond at the appropriate time in court.”

At least he’s not asking for a raise in his monthly salary. In fact, he may not even have a monthly salary. After all, he hasn’t had any tutoring from the Palestinian Authority terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons.

Religious Groups Move to Protect Prisoner Rights

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

A coalition of Orthodox Jewish groups filed friend of the court briefs in two high-profile cases involving religious practice in prisons.

On May 28 the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs  filed a brief in the Atlanta-based federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter of access to kosher meals in the Florida prison system and on May 29 in the U.S. Supreme Court which in its session beginning in October will consider the case of a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas who wants to grow his beard longer than the state’s regulation one-quarter inch.

The Florida case dates to 2010 when a Jewish prisoner serving life for the 1995 murder of his parents, Bruce Rich, said the state’s refusal to provide him with a kosher meal violated his rights under federal law.

The Obama administration joined the case in support of Rich in 2012 and last December a federal court ruled that the Florida Department of Corrections had until July 1 to begin distributing kosher meals.

The state at first agreed, but then recently launched an appeal, saying it was swamped with requests for kosher meals and that acceding to the demand would be prohibitive.

Many of the prisoners requesting kosher meals are believed to be feigning adherence to observant Judaism, and assessing who is genuine and who is not is seen as constitutionally perilous for a government authority.

Prisoners prefer the meals because they are sealed and are seen as better quality. Feeding a prisoner costs $1.52 a day with regular meals and over $4 a day with kosher meals.

Prison officials said they had expected about 300 requests and instead got over 4,400 and expected the number to balloon after the meals start being distributed.

In the Commission on Law’s brief, attorney Nathan Lewin said that it would be unjust to deny truly observant prisoners kosher meals because of the fraudulent claims of others.

In the Arkansas case, the coalition was filing in support of Gregory Holt, a Muslim who says his observance requires him to grow out his beard.

In the brief, Lewin notes that 39 other jurisdictions permit beards of any length, which he says is constitutionally protected.

Lewin, a member of the Supreme Court bar, in the brief cites the precedent of observant Jews in the military who successfully sued to keep their beards.

In a release, Lewin’s office noted that his briefs “cited and discussed traditional Jewish sources such as Maimonides, the Chofetz Chaim, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

Among the groups making up the coalition are Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Union, the National Council of Young Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America.

FBI ‘Wanted’ Hezbollah Commander Killed in Syria

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

A guerrilla commander in the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization, an Iranian proxy group, was killed Monday in Syria fighting rebels for President Bashar al-Assad.

The death of Fawzi Ayoub in the southern Syrian town of Nawa, located in the province of Dera’a, was confirmed by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ayoub is listed on the FBI’s “most wanted” list for attempting to carry out a bombing attack in Israel. A veteran of the Jewish State’s prison system, Ayoub spent four years in jail (2000-2004) before he was freed as part of an early-release deal for a prisoner swap, sources told the Al Arabiya website Tuesday.

Although he was a resident of the southern Lebanese village of Ein Qa’ana, Ayoub also held Canadian citizenship and lived in the United States as well.

Former PM Ehud Olmert Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced Tuesday morning to serve six years in prison. The judge also imposed a fine of NIS 1 million ($289,000.)  He ordered authorities to seize NIS 500,000 in funds the former prime minister has collected from various sources, including numerous speaking engagements in the United States.

Olmert was ordered to begin serving his prison sentence on September 1, pending appeal.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen handed down the sentence in what has become known as the famed “Holyland trial” after Olmert was convicted on two charges of bribery.

The former prime minister was convicted of taking bribes from contractors who built the Holyland residential complex near the Malha Mall in Jerusalem.

The rezoning and other “adjustments” that came in exchange for bribes continued through the 1990s and into the next decade. These were the years in which Olmert served as mayor of the capital city and minister of industry, trade and infrastructure. Both were pivotal posts from which to smooth the way for the developers of the Holyland project.

Olmert was also recently questioned on suspicion of witness tampering and obstruction of justice, according to Israel’s Channel 2 television. The allegations are based on recordings given to police by former Olmert aide Shula Zaken, his closest aide, also convicted in the wide-ranging Holyland scandal. Zaken gave police the recordings as part of her plea bargain with the prosecution.

The Holyland trial has dragged on for years, tainting Olmert’s term as prime minister and shadowing the country’s years beyond while bringing down numerous aides and colleagues.

Before pronouncing sentence, the judge pointed out that Olmert is an “intelligent, brilliant people person” and called him an “avid Zionist.” He praised him for donating to bereaved families and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.

But he then sharply reprimanded the former state leader, saying “The crime of bribery pollutes public service, destroys governments…” and called it “one of the worst crimes.”

Rosen said Olmert was guilty of moral turpitude — a term that means the ex-politican will be forced to wait at least seven years before re-entering the field. The judge added that those who take bribes are equivalent to “traitors” in their betrayal of the public trust.

To punish that betrayal, the judge revoked the 10 percent of Olmert’s mayoral pension.

Olmert has been convicted previously charges of corruption. In 2012, he was pronounced guilty of taking bribes in a Jerusalem case.

That trial earned the former mayor and subsequent minister and prime minister a light sentence of community service only. The judge in the case said in his decision that Olmert’s state leadership as prime minister had afforded him the right to leniency.

Not so today, however.  Judge Rosen said in his decision that the higher the post of the public servant, the harsher the punishment for bribery should be.

“Those who belong to the social and economic elite of the nation should not be held to the same standard as those in common society,” Rosen said. He added in explanation that his hands were tied by law in meting out the punishment, and that he was enjoined by those legal guidelines to set a minimum sentence without discretion.

Olmert issued a statement prior to sentencing saying that he was innocent and protesting an expected sentence that included prison time.

“This is a sad day on which a severe and unjust verdict is to be handed down to an innocent man,” Olmert said in his statement.

He has 45 days to appeal in Supreme Court – which he plans to do,, said Olmert spokesperson Amir Dan. He added that he hopes “the real picture will emerge and the verdict will change completely.”

To the eternal shame of the State of Israel, this is the first time in the history of the nation that a prime minister has been convicted of a felony and sent to prison. Likewise, former president Moshe Katsav is currently serving time in prison for having raped and sexually assaulted his female employees.

Olmert will appeal the conviction and sentence in the Supreme Court, spokesperson Amir Dan said. His attorney Eli Zohar is expected to file a request for a stay of sentence in the meantime.

US Lawmakers Meet with Cuba’s American Jewish Prisoner, Alan Gross

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Four U.S. lawmakers met in Cuba on Monday with imprisoned American Jewish hostage Alan Gross. The legislators visited the jailed social worker at a prison hospital due to his medical condition, which is precarious.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while visiting Cuba to provide internet access for the Jewish community there. According to a report posted by the Havana Times he was employed at the time by Development Alternatives, Inc., and contracted by USAID, an American government agency.

Gross was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the integrity of the State.” Cuban authorities said he was caught “carrying sophisticated telecommunications equipment prohibited on the island, working for a well-funded, secret USAID program designed to topple the Cuban government.”

Speaking to reporters in Havana following their visit, delegation leader U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said in a brief statement, “It is in the interests of both our countries to start negotiations, not just talks. It is time for both countries to make a serious commitment to enter into negotiations without preconditions.”

For years, Cuban leader Raul Castro has been trying to persuade the Obama White House to enter negotiations to free the “Cuban Five” — spies who were caught and jailed for espionage in the United States in 1998. Two have already been released, having served their terms. One is serving a double life sentence. President Barack Obama has reportedly shown no inclination to discuss the matter with Cuban officials, and no apparent interest in a swap deal for Alan Gross.

(Likewise Obama has had no interest in discussing a deal to commute the sentence of American-Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to time served. After having agreed to a plea bargain, Pollard was nevertheless sent to prison on a life term in 1987 on a single count of passing information to an ally. Often jailed under harsh conditions at the prison where he is held in North Carolina he is presently in extremely frail health. Hundreds of appeals to U.S. presidents through the decades have left all unmoved — including Obama, who has been approached by the current Israeli government.)

U.S. Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Emanuel Clever (D-MI) also took part in the delegation to Cuba. They met with Alan Gross for 90 minutes, according to the report. The delegation reportedly then met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

There have been no diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana in more than half a century. But Gross, age 65, has vowed that by the end of this year, he is determined to return home to the United States, either “dead or alive.”

Madoff Recovering from Heart Attack

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Bernard Madoff suffered a heart attack in prison last month and was hospitalized, CNBC revealed Wednesday after receiving an email from the 75-year-old Ponzi scheme rip-off artist. Madoff also is suffering from stage four kidney disease.

He former stockbroker wrote that he spent most of last month in the Duke University Medical Center and that he now is back in his Butner, N.C. prison, where he was sentenced to 150 years.

Madoff victim Norma Hill, 73, who had $2 million stolen from her, told the New York Daily News on Wednesday. “I don’t wish any ill on people. . . . I don’t like to hear of anybody being sick. But I don’t have any real sympathy for him.”

His wife Sondra, 80, was quoted as saying, “I care as much about him as he cared about us.”

Alan Gross Meets with Cuban Jewish Leaders

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Cuban Jewish leaders met with imprisoned Jewish-American contractor on the last day of Hanukkah, two days after Gross marked his fourth year in jail in Cuba.

“During the encounter we could see that he was in better spirits, more physically recovered,” according to a statement from the Beth Shalom Temple in Havana according to the Associated Press. The Cuban Jewish leaders have met with Gross for other Jewish holidays throughout his imprisonment.

Gross, 64, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba. The Maryland resident is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”.

Gross says he has lost 100 pounds since his imprisonment and suffers from painful arthritis. He reportedly leaves his shared cell once a day for one hour. In a letter sent last week, Gross asked President Obama to personally help secure his release. The Cuban government has indicated that it wants the United States to allow the return to Cuba of five spies in prison or on probation in the U.S. in return for negotiations on Gross.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/alan-gross-meets-with-cuban-jewish-leaders/2013/12/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: