News & Politics

Jail Scandal Revelation: They Needed a Minyan!

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In case you were wondering why all the Orthodox Jewish inmates ended up in the city jail in Manhattan known as the Tombs, where they could enjoy special treatment, we think we have an answer.

Supposedly, an inmate is an inmate is an inmate, barring medical and security issues, and the rules say they should be placed without regard to religion. If you got picked up in Bed-Stuy, the South Bronx or Harlem, that’s how it would go, whether you’re Baptist or Pentecostal or Lutheran.

Correction sources say, however, that within the past few years Rabbi Leib Glanz, the chaplain for Jewish inmates, approached Valerie Oliver, a chief who was the head of custody management at the time, and asked for the transfer of Orthodox Jewish inmates to the Tombs. Oliver approved the request — yet another example of special treatment in this unfolding story.

“The rabbi would have the inmates transfered at her behest,” a correction source says. “Once Oliver started it, the staff just did it. And you never had, for example, Muslim inmates transfered like that.”

The official reason, the sources said, was religious. Certain Jewish religious ceremonies and functions, such as public prayer and reading from the Torah, require an minimum of 10 men–known as a Minyan.

But, you can’t help but wonder whether Glanz wanted all of his guys together so it would be easier to do favors for them. Reportedly, Jewish inmates at the Tombs were allowed to make extra calls to girlfriends and bookies, and enjoyed food brought in from the outside.

On Dec. 30, Glanz organized a bar mitzvah for an accused fraudster in the Tombs, complete with 60 outside guests, catered food and silverware. That party and a subsequent one have led to multiple investigations, the resignation of the No 3 official in the department and a lot of general chaos.

The inmate who benefitted was Tuvia Stern, who had fled the country for 20 years to escape fraud charges. According to a correction source, since he was a flight risk, he never should have been allowed to be housed at the Tombs.

Glanz, correction sources say, also threw barbeques for correction department staff on the roof of the Tombs. He would bring in steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the fixings. It was routine for wardens, chiefs and even the commissioner to attend these functions. Jewish inmates did the cooking. Glanz paid for the events.

“This didn’t happen over night,” a correction source said. “It’s been going on for awhile.”

Glanz resigned yesterday. His lawyer Richard Finkel declined to comment.

Oliver at one point allowed a Jewish inmate to attend a funeral outside the jails. She ordered the escorting officers not to enter the funeral home, which is considered a breach of security regulations, correction sources said.

Oliver is now Chief of Administration, a post which takes her out of responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the jails.

A Correction Department spokesman cited the ongoing investigations in declining to comment on Glanz and Oliver.

Nothing, so far, has changed in the status of Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil, one of the officials who approved the bar mitzvah. But folks are still questioning why he was allowed to retain his job.

Correction Commissioner Martin Horn promoted Jalil to assistant commissioner after the Imam made a controversial speech in Arizona, claiming the biggest terrorists in the world were in the White House.

Abdul-Jalil had served 14 years in jail on drug charges and is on lifetime parole. He was released in 1989. The FBI issued a memo of concern over Abdul-Jalil’s speeches–a document the DOC says it never received.

DOI rules state background checks are required for all managerial positions, and all city employees earning more than $80,000. Abdul-Jalil would have fit into both of those categories, but it’s unclear whether the background check was necessary in Abdul-Jalil’s case.

DOC spokesman Stephen Morello says, “The department was fully aware of Imam Umar’s background when he was hired and when he was promoted.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that Mayor Bloomberg’s top aide Kevin Sheekey had three sit-downs with Glanz in 2008. (The story is here.)

The Times reports that Glanz, influential in one faction in the Satmar hasidic community, met with Sheekey toward the end of 2008. The subject of those meetings is unclear, but Glanz is an ally of Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, a leader in the Satmar community.

A Bloomberg spokesman said that the two men did not discuss Glanz’s work as jail chaplain.

And, the Voice has learned that Correction Department chief Larry Davis has been promoted today to Chief of Facility Operations to replace Peter Curcio, who resigned yesterday in the wake of bar mitzvah controversy.