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Burlington, VT - Judge: Denial of Inmate's Religious Observance Possibly Malicious

Published on: December 1, 2007 05:58 PM
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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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Read Comments (5)  —  Post Yours »


 Dec 03, 2007 at 09:22 AM Anonymous Says:

can we organize a petition?


 Dec 02, 2007 at 11:46 AM Anonymous Says:

Every mitzvah a Jew does is good for his neshama. Is it not our obligation to help each Jewish neshama to do as many mitzvos as possible? Even if he is convicted of an awful crime. We are the people of forgiveness. We keep asking Hashem for forgiveness, how can we ask HIM to forgive us, if we do not forgive our fellow man?

And, even if we can't forgive, we can still help his neshama by helping him do mitzvos.

Both Chabad and Satmar are big into this. Chabad through their famous Aleph Institute, and Satmar through quiet, private means, by Satmar chassidim who work many free, long "mesiras nefesh" hours to try to help inmates.

Pidyon Shivuyim is a law. Not for nothing. It is needed.

We should show our love for other Jews at least by not being cruel in our posts.

Jewish inmates suffer... Really suffer.

I know. I sell Talleisim & Tefillin, and often have to help get it through to the inmates despite some ridiculous rules.

Some prisons use the uniform color as a way of preventing an inmate from receiving a tallis!
Others will not allow tefillin without their guards opening them up, to check for contraband! Of course, they are no longer usable, but they don't care.

If a person is incarcerated for one Aveira, should he be prevented from doing other mitzvos? Should he be forced into many, many other avairos? Shabbos candles, kosher food, being forced to be mechallel shabbos, and the list is endless.

Show love, not hate.


 Dec 02, 2007 at 05:45 AM JewishPrisoner's Lawyer Says:

I am the attorney for this Jewish prisoner. He was not originally frum but did try to keep kosher and keep at least some of the mitzvot. He also realized some of the errors he made in his life and became more frum once in prison which has continued since he was released. He is keeping kashrut, Shabbos and many other mitzvot. By the way, it's not a matter of not doing the time, it's that while you're doing the time you should be allowed to properly keep your religion. That happens to be guaranteed both by federal law and Vermont's own prison regulations. In this case, even though Chabad and a Vermont rabbi offered to provide for free what he needed and requested, the prison officials refused to accept it or allow it. In addition, by Vermont's own regulations, they had to get approval from the Commissioner of Vermont's Corrections Dept. before denying the religious requests, which they did not do. As noted in the magistrate's decision, there was no safety issue with the menorah and Christian prisoners were allowed to have Christmas trees with lights through their holiday week without restrictions and to have special Christmas food treats brought in from outside the prison but denied such accomodations to the Jewish prisoner. (By the way, this Jewish prisoner was also subject to nasty anti-Jewish comments and actions by both other prisoners and prison staff.)
For the first commentator: May HaShem have more "rachmonis" on you than you have for your fellow Yidden, unless of course, you are perfect and have never done any "aveyrim" or anything illegal.


 Dec 01, 2007 at 09:39 PM biGwheeel Says:

Without knowing [or being interested to know personal details], maybe there was a safety issue in denying access to electric Menorah unsupervised.


 Dec 01, 2007 at 09:25 PM As it is Says:

Once in Prison they all profess to be frum and are upset when they can't practice their Religion freely. Perhaps if they practiced their Religion and Frumkiet they so chalish to keep in Prison, while out on the free, they never would have wound up in Prison...
"If you can't do the TIME, Don't do the CRIME"...


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