July 12, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 12, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Different Standard. Or Is It?

I’ve had lots of time to contemplate the world situation. Coughing away with a diagnosis of pneumonia, I’ve been reading, watching and listening to more news than I can remember ever having done before.

I think that even if I was well I would have watched and rooted for the Edmonton Oilers, hoping for them to win the Stanley Cup, but that didn’t really work out the way it was supposed to (for us Canadians).

Cringing each time I hear the words of the biased media talking about Israel’s killing of so many innocent people each day, the outrageousness of the governments across the world accusing Israel of apartheid and the swelling in the good old USA of protests and violence against innocent U.S. citizens whose support of Israel will never wane. People attempting to enter a shul in Los Angeles where they were accosted and threatened. Has the world gone nuts? And the unimaginable pain of the hostages, their families living in this world of the unknown. Who can forget the image of the Bibas family and that beautiful red-headed boy, who has now spent more time in captivity than out?

Another news item I read with curiosity is that Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed the closure of five prisons in New York State as part of the budget agreement of 2024-2025. Normally that news would not ruffle many feathers, and certainly not mine, until I began to realize that the Otisville (country club), minimum-security prison is on the roster of those being closed. For those who are not familiar with Otisville, may I remind you that this is the prison where Michael Cohen, former president Trump fixer, begged the judge to remand him upon his sentencing. Otisville boasts a full-time Chasidic chaplain, daily minyanim, sedarim, weekly Shabbat services, a kosher kitchen and vending machines in the visiting room. The prison commissary sells yarmulkes for $6 and offers a kosher selection that includes matzah, gefilte fish, rugelach and seltzer. It is also the only federal prison with a kosher deli serving pastrami, corned beef, tongue, gefilte fish, blintzes, rugelach, etc. Inmates are able to be escorted to the mikvah prior to Yom Kippur. Upon reading who some of the prisoners are and what crimes they have committed, I have difficulty understanding their need to go to the mikvah. I would suggest reading “The Prison Minyan” by Jonathon Stone.

The main reason I mentioned the above prison is because just recently in the news the following announcement was made in the State of New Jersey by Governor Murphy: “As we celebrate Juneteenth and reflect on our nation’s ongoing journey toward racial justice for Black and Brown Americans, I am proud to sign this Executive Order to help address inequities and unfairness in our system of justice in New Jersey. This new clemency initiative is a cornerstone of our Administration’s efforts to make New Jersey the State of Second Chances. Today, we pledge to take a responsible and equity-driven approach to pardons and commutations that will prioritize the most compelling cases.”

As I watched the celebration of families as they heard this news, without a guarantee that their family member’s sentence would be commuted, I saw the great disparity between our community and those less fortunate. Prison sentences for those who were unable to pay their bail or penalty, for those who sold drugs occasionally in order to make money to feed their families, who stole loaves of bread clandestinely so their children would have food on the table, were given abhorrent sentences. Legal defenders took their cases and are bogged down by the number of people they now represent. We all know there is something terribly wrong with the justice system, and I am in no way advocating for criminals who have been violent or dangerous to be exonerated. I just think there is a significant difference in what happens to the person who has the means to defend himself and the one who does not. It makes no sense.

Although the crimes committed in Otisville to my knowledge have not been physically vicious, they have hurt thousands of people. Is anyone looking into the psychological effect on the children whose parents are spending time away from them because of their total dishonesty and greed? What are we teaching them? Also, what happens when they return to their communities? Is sitting in a prison such as Otisville a satisfactory punishment for someone who has stolen more than thousands from a chesed fund? Does that person come back to shul and sit next to you and act as if nothing has happened?

I don’t envy a person from the New Jersey prison system who returns to real life and makes an attempt to get a job. How many times will he be refused? He certainly does not have any money stashed away in preparation for his return. The bottom line is that this world is full of inequity. It seems so unfair and I cannot imagine what the answer is.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles