Prison Passover Lawsuit: Jewish Inmate Claims Retaliation for Demanding Equal Treatment

An interesting lawsuit has been filed in Connecticut at a federal prison for women in Denbury. Prison officials suddenly reduced the number of items that Jewish prisoners can purchase for Passover, which inmate Agnes Kole says was in direct retaliation of her successful challenge to an earlier discriminatory action taken by the prison.

Kole wants to be able to the purchase of Passover staples such as chicken, gefilte fish and smoked salmon for the holiday. At first glance, this would seem pretty weak. However, Kole is making some disturbing allegations of retaliation and the Bureau of Prisons has offered the weakest possible explanation in support of its actions.

The prison used to allow inmates to purchase from a list of 12 items but suddenly reduced it to just five- matzohs, grape juice, two kinds of chocolate and macaroons.

Kole is a Jewish inmate from New Jersey. She is a Nigerian national who helped orchestrate the shipment of over 60 pounds of nearly pure heroin into the country between 1990 and 1993.

Kole had earlier challenged the decision by the prison to reduce the amount Jewish inmates could spend on Passover food from $290 to $100. She was successful in this effort, but then the officials turned around and said that she could spend more but have less to buy.

This seems pretty suspicious — made more so by the explanation of the BOP — they do not want the items to be used for barter in the prison. Since the prison sells items like watches, shoes, and pizza making kits it seems like a facially absurd argument. Yet, the Court may not want to get into such motivational issues. If the court does not, the inspector general should.

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One thought on “Prison Passover Lawsuit: Jewish Inmate Claims Retaliation for Demanding Equal Treatment”

  1. JT, from what I have read, this kind of petty spite by prison officials toward inmates is typical behavior for them. To put it bluntly, most of them don’t like inmates to begin with, and they REALLY don’t like it when inmates challenge the prison authority on anything, even something so harmless as offering Jewish food items in the prison commissary. They like it even less when an inmate is successful in that challenge.

    Basically, there are two types of people in the prison industries; humanitarians and punishers. Humanitarians are the people who do their jobs the best they can, and although they uphold the rules, they try to be fair as often as possible. Punishers are just the opposite, and I’ll let it go at that. This kind of retaliation, reducing the number of items that Jewish inmates can purchase in their commissaries or canteens, is typical of what I call the punisher mentality. It is spiteful and frankly, unnecessary. Unfortunately, it is also quite common.

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