Burlington, VT - Judge: Denial of Inmate's Religious Observance Possibly Malicious
Burlington, VT - A federal judge said that the state Corrections Department acted with malice and callous indifference to the rights of a Jewish inmate when officials denied his request to observe religious holidays in 2005.
The magistrate's report, filed in U.S. District Court in Burlington, allows former prisoner Gordon Bock's lawsuit against Corrections to proceed toward trial.
"Bock has produced enough evidence to make a reasonable inference of malice," Magistrate Judge Jerome J. Niedermeier wrote in his opinion. "No report on Bock's requests was ever sent to the commissioner before they were denied, as required by department policy.
Bock, 52, of Northfield, from Oct. 22, 2004, until May 10, 2005, on convictions for domestic assault.
In his lawsuit, Bock contends prison staff violated policies when they refused to allow him having a menorah for Hanukkah or permitting him to prepare special kosher foods brought to prison from the outside for Passover.
Prison personnel allowed Bock to have an electric menorah only when a rabbi was present, but permitted other inmates to display Christmas lights at all times.
"Denying accommodations based on which religion the inmate is could demonstrate conscious wrongdoing," the judge wrote.
Corrections' attorney Kurt Kuehl, an assistant attorney general, said Friday for the Burlington Free Press, that he had yet to read Niedermeier's report and could not comment.
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