Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yom HaDin - a reminder of the inherent insecurity of life

Received the following letter from a friend:
Chanced on this story last night listening to NPR on my way home.

Would perhaps have been better for Yom haDin than Y"K, but certainly helps engender the general mood of this blessed season.  

To think how tenuous the future is...  The narrative, entirely factual, and very clear, could have come right out of Kafka or The Count of Monte Cristo.  A Bronx teenager is doing his thing one day with other teenagers, and then for no reason becomes jailed for 3yrs, mostly in solitary confinement, and mostly due to nothing more than ruthless bureaucracy.  (Was Yosef haTz' jailed for 2yrs or 3 ?)  No trial, no conviction, no bail-- just awaiting trial on flimsy evidence until a housecleaning dismissal 3yrs later.

His crime, apparently, was living in a region where the justice system is overwhelmed and the administrators of all levels care little (NYC).  I find the story chilling.  I doubt any of us can relate to the boy's background, but in the possibility that the story may help any others recognize how little protects what we count so dear, I pass it on.  Well, for that reason, and as well because of my lunatic fringe taste.

Gmar chasima tova, and wishing you an easy fast,
 New Yorker Magazine   Late on Saturday, seventeen hours after the police picked Browder up, an officer and a prosecutor interrogated him, and he again maintained his innocence. The next day, he was led into a courtroom, where he learned that he had been charged with robbery, grand larceny, and assault. The judge released his friend, permitting him to remain free while the case moved through the courts. But, because Browder was still on probation, the judge ordered him to be held and set bail at three thousand dollars. The amount was out of reach for his family, and soon Browder found himself aboard a Department of Correction bus. He fought back panic, he told me later. Staring through the grating on the bus window, he watched the Bronx disappear. Soon, there was water on either side as the bus made its way across a long, narrow bridge to Rikers Island.

Of the eight million people living in New York City, some eleven thousand are confined in the city’s jails on any given day, most of them on Rikers, a four-hundred-acre island in the East River, between Queens and the Bronx. New Yorkers who have never visited often think of Rikers as a single, terrifying building, but the island has ten jails—eight for men, one for women, and one so decrepit that it hasn’t housed anyone since 2000.[...]

Prestia has represented many clients who were wrongfully arrested, but Browder’s story troubles him most deeply. “Kalief was deprived of his right to a fair and speedy trial, his education, and, I would even argue, his entire adolescence,” he says. “If you took a sixteen-year-old kid and locked him in a room for twenty-three hours, your son or daughter, you’d be arrested for endangering the welfare of a child.” Browder doesn’t know exactly how many days he was in solitary—and Rikers officials, citing pending litigation, won’t divulge any details about his stay—but he remembers that it was “about seven hundred, eight hundred.” [...]

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