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June 23, 1989 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-23

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Jewish inmates said constitu-
She had been taking courses in side and Ionia Maximum facilities),
tional rights were being violated criminology and interviewed an ex- the Carson City Temporary Correc-
because separate services prevented convict who stayed straight. He told tional Facility, the Chippewa County
them from having a minyan, which her he didn't turn back to crime Thmporary Correctional Facility and
requires 10 Jews.
because a volunteer came in and the State House of Corrections and
Barnhart asked the Court of Ap- taught him how to read.
Branch Prison at Marquette.
peals to overturn the 1986 lower court
She then took a special projects
"I see how destructive a person
ruling. Congregate Shabbat services class in criminology, which required who is negative can be," Fischer says,
always were permitted before the a visit to the Washtenaw County jail. agreeing with Rabbi Shafran that
prison was broken up into three She started volunteering there. Soon religious programming is
facilities. He expects the court to after, Fischer got a call from the rehabilitative.
render a decision within four months. Hillel director at U-M, who told her
"It provides self esteem. It is our
"What we are asking is practical," the prison had been broken down,
social obligation to help. That is part
Barnhart says. "Every aspect of a
of the Jewish philosophy."
prisoner's life is controlled. There is
Mark, 41, is a head mechanic in
no privacy. They have done wrong.
the Jackson textile factory. He has
They are being punished. Many are
been locked up for 11 years. On this
lifers. They are not outside; they are
Saturday, he was able to take off work
separated in their own little world.
for services. It is for leisure-time ac-
All that is left is a shot at some digni-
tivity. He doesn't live in the central
ty. Now that they are separated, we
complex, so his moment of peace
should treat them as humanely as we
takes place in- a classroom.
It is noisy. A guard pokes his head
Working too for prisoners' rights
in the room and reminds the inmates
are Fischer and Rabbi Shafran, who
not to smoke.
are trying to identify Jewish Jewish inmates.
Fischer gathered students each
There is a chance Mark could be
prisoners throughout the state. They
have targeted about 100 Jewish in- Saturday to go to Jackson prison with called into work for mandatory over-
mates in Michigan. B'nai B'rith's a former Jackson prison chaplain. time. If he chooses services, he could
coalition estimates that between She still visits Jackson and has add- lose his job or be written up for a ma-
ed other prisons to her list. Through jor misconduct. Penalties for miscon-
7,000 and 10,000 Jews are locked up
in prisons throughout the country, this process, she hopes to get a more ducts include solitary confinement.
Kenny, too, came to services. He
making up 1 percent of the total accurate number of Jewish inmates in
being called Yitzhak. It was
prison population.
time in weeks. He was locked
By the end of fall, Fischer and
Shafran plan to launch a more active hope to develop accommodating up in solitary confinement for wear-
ing a yarmulka into the cafeteria.
prisoner outreach group. They say religious programs.
"I don't feel like a service today,"
they need money and support from
Jewish inmate says. "It's an in-
Jewish community leaders. They have
limited money from the Jewish In- facilities and the Florence Crane's sult. If you are doing life, a sanctuary
mate Benefit Fund, which pays for Women's Prison at Coldwater. In the is all you have."
Mark offers a solution.
holiday packages, prayer books and works are plans to visit the Muskegon
"They are taking everything else
Stacie Schiff Fischer has offered guidance to
an annual seder.
Jewish prisoners since 1984.
"Working with prisoners started plex (Michigan Reformatory, River- away. Why not leave us God?"
out as part of my job," says Rabbi
Shafran, who recently took the clergy
position in Jackson. "Then I saw
there was a real need to be filled."
To date, no Jewish agency in
Detroit has taken on Jewish prisoners
as a project. A few rabbis and in-
dividuals have visited the inmates.
Both Jewish Community Council
Executive Director David Gad-Harf
and President Paul D. Borman have
expressed an interest in the subject.
"These guys deserve freedom of
religion," Rabbi Shafran says. "It can
be a great force for rehabilitation. The
Jewish community is responsible for
"Injustice is injustice whether it
happens to someone on the street or
someone behind bars," Rabbi Shafran
says. "This will take time. It won't
happen overnight."
Down the road, Shafran and
Fischer would like to provide job
placement services, counseling and
support groups to Jewish inmates and
Jewish parolees.
Fischer, a management consul-
tant, started working as a prison
volunteer six years ago while atten-
ding the University of Michigan in
Ann Arbor.
Attorney Michael Barnhart, who worked for the federal government's legal services department, enjoys fighting for a cause.

Working with
prisoners started out
as part of my job.
Then I saw there
was a real need to be



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