Vermont prison system settles lawsuit


A former Jewish inmate in Vermont denied Passover food and holiday items will receive $25,000.

Gordon Bock, 53, settled his lawsuit with the Vermont Department of Corrections earlier this month. The prison system also agreed to modify its policy regarding prisoners’ religious rights.

Bock said that during his incarceration in 2004 and 2005 he was not allowed to receive kosher-for-Passover food, a Chanukah menorah or gift baskets for Purim. All had been offered to him free by the Aleph Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitch organization that works with Jewish prisoners, the military and their families.

“The U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have said very clearly that prison officials must meet the religious needs of inmates. That’s the law of the land,” said Rabbi Mendel Katz, Aleph’s director of prison outreach. “Even more, from a Jewish perspective, every Jew has a soul, and regardless of whether they’ve made mistakes in life, that soul needs spirituality. Every mitzvah that they can do in prison is part of the process of bettering themselves.”

Robert Hofmann, a Vermont corrections commissioner, told The Associated Press that the department has drafted new rules on religious observances since Bock’s incarceration that have been “well received” by inmates and faith communities.

Recommended from JTA