On the eighth day of Chanukah last year Sholom Rubashkin was released from the Otisville Federal Prison, having been sentenced to 27 long years, an extremely long sentence for a financial crime with $20 million in restitution. I was locked up with guys doing 10-15 years with $200 million in restitution.
Rubashkin had many factions in the Jewish community lobbying for his release. Nobody has publicly come out and claimed credit for Rubashkin’s early release, other than Rabbi Milton Balkany, a convicted felon and ex inmate with a checkered past.
Milton Balkany claimed that it was through his efforts, connections and contacts with Rudy Guiliani, The Donald and other machers that led to Rubashkin’s commuted sentence. Balkany said that the Aleph Institute wanted to go through legal channels through appeals and the courts. Balkany said that after a number of years of watching Jewish organizations not getting anywhere he decided to take action. Balkany took out his rolodex and started making phone calls. A few weeks after making phone calls to his contacts in DC, Rubashkin was making L’Chaims in Boro Park.
Rubashkin’s early release was nothing short of a miracle. The criminal justice system is a bureaucratic nightmare controlled by cold hearted government employees. Forget about the Deep State. The prison industrial complex is too bloated and out of control for these Clockwork Orange bean counters to conspire to do anything more complicated than “lock ’em up.”
On December 21, 2018 Rubashkin helped bring about another miracle. Prison reform legislation, the First Step Act, was signed into law by The Donald. It is a miracle that any law gets passed in the current toxic political environment, let alone a prison reform bill. Criminals and inmates are not sympathetic characters worthy of the compassion of politicians, lawmakers or decision makers.
How did this prison reform law get passed? The New York Times says it was the work of Jared Kushner lobbying his own party of Republicans and convincing Democrats to support the bill. Many Democrats on the left didn’t think the bill went far enough, especially Congressmen representing minority districts. They didn’t have much of a choice but to support it. They were told that the bill was a first step towards broader reforms, hence the bill was named “The First Step Act.” It was either the First Step Act or no Act at all.
The last time the Federal government made any major attempt at prison reform was when the compassionate release program was expanded last year by the Bureau of Prisons. Even with the expansion only 6 % of all applications for compassionate release were granted by the Feds. Not very compassionate. I was locked up with an 80 year old Satmar named Naftuley Schlesinger, who was trying to get out under that law. If anyone was more deserving of compassionate release it was this ornery old Satmar. Every time a new lawyer got locked up in Otisville Naftuly would flatter him and offer him some rugelach. Naftuly tried to get me to look at his files and help him with his case. The Bureau of Prisons has rules prohibiting inmates to talk to each other about their cases. Practicing law in prison without a license is also prohibited. Nobody cared about these rules, not even the guards. Ex-lawyers were getting paid with cans of tuna all the time to help out other guys with their cases. The best jailhouse lawyer I ever met was a Black guy named Courtney in Otisville. He had no legal training but he was getting pretty good results. I was impressed. Unfortunately he couldn’t get much done for his own case, he was too busy making shoes for others.
I tried to help Naftuly with his case but he was a very difficult client. He didn’t listen to anything I had to say. If I told him something he didn’t want to hear he would yell at me. Getting paid in rugelach wasn’t very lucrative even though I didn’t have to pay for malpractice insurance, bar dues, or continuing legal education classes. Eventually I fired him as a client. I referred him to an ex attorney inmate named Earl David. Earl put up with Naftuly longer than me, but he couldn’t get any results. There was another ex attorney in Otisville, Binyomin, who had accordion legal files stacked all over his cubicle. He represented a lot of guys. At one point he got in trouble and thrown into solitary confinement, ie., the SHU. He left his clients in the lurch. The local bar association didn’t even appoint a trustee attorney to take over his files and his unused retainers.
European countries, as well as Israel, have laws that are far less punitive and far more compassionate than anything you will find in the First Step Act. The First Step Act changes rules that were ridiculous to begin with. For example, under the new law guards will no longer be able to chain and shackle a pregnant prisoner. Under the new law compassionate release will be more available to elderly and terminally ill prisoners. The crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity will be eliminated retroactively. Black guys currently serving 20 years for selling crack will be eligible for early release. The White guys who did two years for powder cocaine were already released twenty years ago. Impoverished female prisoners will no longer have to go without tampons because they cannot afford to buy them on the commissary. Tampons will be available for free. Under the new law home confinement will be expanded. Prisoners will no longer be shipped to jails located more than 500 miles from their hometown as a form of punishment. In prison this is called “diesel therapy.” You get put in a prison bus for days and driven around the country. Under the new law guards will no longer have the right to read emails prisoners send to their attorneys. Why it took this long for the Feds to stop the BOP from reading attorney-client privileged communications is beyond comprehension. What has the American Bar Association been doing all these years? Under the new law the Attorney General will be forced to implement programs to address recidivism, drug addiction treatment, mental health, and job training for inmates during incarceration and after release. These programs should have been instituted a long time ago. Under the new law Federal Judges will have more discretion at sentencing and mandatory minimums will be reduced, which will mostly effect guys with longer sentences.
How did this miracle legislation ever get passed? How does any legislation get passed in this country? Money, money and more money. The Banking industry spends about $50 million a year to lobby Congress. AIPAC raises $100 million a year and spends about $2 million a year on Congressional lobbyists.
How does one raise money to lobby on behalf of criminals? The ethnic groups suffering the most under the criminal justice system, ie., minorities, have not able to get anything done in Congress. President Obama, a Black man, did not even attempt to pass any bill to reverse mass incarceration during his eight years in office. The liberal Jews who supported Obama for eight years did nothing to end the suffering of inmates, which included Jews like myself. I will never forgive these liberals for letting me rot in prison. They were more concerned with the suffering of goats, chickens and cows at the Rubashkin slaughterhouse than they were about the suffering of human beings locked up in animal cages.
The Satmar and Lubavitcher sects have seen many of their Hasidim sent to the American gulag. They formed the Aleph Institute in order to help all Jewish inmates, not just the Hasidim. As an ethnic group Jews have a higher rate of incarceration for financial crimes than Whites in general. Does this mean that Jews are more prone to commit financial crimes than Whites? No. The majority of drug dealers are White, yet most people arrested and incarcerated for drug dealing are Black. The cops pick and choose who they want to lock up.
The criminal justice system is seriously flawed. The system is racist. Prisons are inhumane. Human rights organizations have denounced the American penal system as the worst in the entire world.
Who has stepped up to challenge this unjust inhumane system? Mostly Jews living in Crown Heights and Williamsburg. The same guys who lobbied for Rubashkin lobbied for the First Step Act. They have been raising funds for the last several years. They organized a fundraiser on Charidy.com. They raised $2 million to lobby Congress. Some of the fundraising came from Rubashkin events. Rubashkin’s release inspired the masses to donate to this campaign.
The First Step Act hit a number of roadblocks along the way. The first roadblock was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions was against any kind of prison reform. Sessions wanted to go the other way and seek the maximum sentence for all defendants. This was a pivotal moment in the passage of the bill. This is when Rabbi Milton Balkany stepped in and made a real difference that altered the course of history. Balkany told the press that Sessions tried to block Rubashkin’s early prison release. Balkany then went home and cooked up a noodle kugel. Balkany muttered incantations on his noodle kugel. After Balkany finished his incantations he put a curse on Jeffrey Sessions. Balkany then announced to the press that Sessions was an employee at will and will be “asked to leave” by President Trump. Balkany’s curse worked. Sessions was fired by Trump.
It’s prohibited under Jewish law to put a curse on another Jew. It’s permissible to put a curse on a Gentile. Rabbi Balkany was perfectly within his right to put a curse on Sessions. Sessions is a rasha and a goy. Sessions pushed for faster deportations and separation of children from their parents. Sessions cut back political asylum seekers. Sessions instructed US Attorneys to seek maximum sentences in all cases. Sessions scrapped policies initiated by Obama to ease prison overcrowding. Sessions put an end to Obama’s policy to not enforce the Federal criminal drug laws in marijuana friendly States. Fortunately, most of what Sessions tried to do was impossible to implement and he didn’t get anywhere.
This is the same Jeff Sessions who the Orthodox Union honored at it’s annual policy convention this past year. While the Orthodox Union was kissing Sessions’ pinky ring at its annual convention, Balkany was holding his annual noodle kugel curse convention and putting a curse on Sessions. Balkany, a convicted felon with an extensive criminal record was able to see the evils of Sessions while the Harvard and Yale educated modern Jews at the OU were blinded by stupidity.
After Sessions was fired the First Step Act finally had a chance of passing. Kushner stepped in and lobbied Congress. The Hasidim worked their Kabbalistic magic. The rest was history. Hopefully there will be a Second Step Act, and a third, and a fourth. In the meantime many guys locked up are celebrating. The goyim inmates who constantly complain about the Jews getting special treatment should thank the Jews for the First Step Act. You know who you are. Vinnie, Sal, Big Pete. Confess your sins to your BOP West African priest whom you all dislike. And send your pennies to the Aleph Institute, your fellow goyim are not looking out for you. As much as it goes against your core beliefs, you need to trust the Jews. Especially Mshooolum. He da man.
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