Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pollard in Prison

In last week's letters section of The Jewish Week (link), Shlomo Z. Mostofsky wrote to the editor:

A few years ago I visited Pollard at his prison. Despite what has been written, he takes full responsibility for his actions. He recounted that in one prison he was in, he was placed naked in a terminal AIDS ward. Each month, he told us, someone would come from Washington and show him a list of Jewish leaders in the U.S. He was told that if he checked off the names of those who were spies for the State of Israel his conditions in the prison would improve.
I found this shocking. So I checked the web to see if any prisoner rights organizations have taken up Pollard's cause. I couldn't find anything. I searched the ACLU website for this, but did not find any mention of Jonathan Pollard. Then I checked Pollard's website. There were lots of mentions of this alleged inhumane treatment -- in Springfield, where he was held from March 1987 until June 1988 -- but they were almost all after the year 2000. From the 1990s, there were very few mentions of this. This one, from 1993, says the following (link):
For almost a year, he was imprisoned in a ward for the criminally insane. The first month there he was kept stripped naked.
And this one, also from 1993 (link):
Before coming to Marion, Jonathan spent a year in a hospital for the criminally insane in Springfield, Mo. Most of his stay there, he was kept naked in freezing temperatures.
In other words, there do not seem to have been any allegations about this type of mistreatment until 5 years after the fact. Look at the articles on Pollard's website from the time period during which the mistreatment is supposed to have occured (link). I can't seem to find any mention of this mistreatment. Not even by R. Meir Kahane or R. Ahron Soloveichik.

From the people I know who have advocated for Pollard after meeting him, they have all simply taken his word on various matters of treatment without putting in any effort to verify it. Does the above simply mean that Pollard was put in the mental ward of a prison for a short time? That isn't necessarily nefarious. Maybe he was experiencing suicidal tendencies. Maybe he wasn't even in the mental ward but just in a prison that had a mental ward. Has anyone checked this stuff out? Was any complaint filed at the time? If so, there should be a public record of it. Where is the public record of him complaining about being left naked in a terminal AIDS ward? Most importantly, has anyone with any expertise on prisoner treatment in the US said that Pollard's treatment is unusual? Has any legitimate prisoner advocacy group condemned his treatment? All we seem to hear are claims of abuse that grow more extreme and stretch credulity as time passes. I mean, this guy was a high profile inmate, with articles about his plight being regularly published in the media. Would the department of prisons violate such a prisoner's constitutional rights so flagrantly? And if so, why didn't any in the media mention this until half a decade later?

It seems to me that rabbis and communal activists should look for outside verification of Pollard's claims before accepting them.

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