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Jew in Jail Paperback – November 2, 2010
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Within a couple of weeks, Abbott murdered Richard Adan, an aspiring actor who was working as a waiter at a restaurant called Binibon's in the East Village over an argument pertaining to Abbott's request to use the washroom.
In 1998, Gary Goldstein, a habitual abuser of narcotics and alcohol, held up a string of dry cleaning establishments in uptown Manhattan. Under the influence, he used a toy gun and in this same inebriated presence of mind, confessed to the cops who promised him leniency if he cooperated without the presence of a lawyer.
Unfortunately, Goldstein wasn't seen as meshuganah high on pills and alcohol, but rather as a danger to society and was sentenced to 7 years in prison.
Mr. Goldstein spent his time productively in lockup, not unlike Abbott, researching, learning and familiarizing himself with the system...and then writing a novel: JEW IN JAIL. Unlike Abbott, Goldstein comes from a loving and supportive Brooklyn family and hadn't grown up in "the system". A college graduate with great promise who worked in the journalism field, at one point Goldstein was a productive member of society pursuing his passion which was writing and sports coverage, however, that career slowly deteriorated, his criminal behavior reflecting increasingly antisocial choices due to his addictions which he had found no means to control.
Unfortunately for Goldstein, and it's never mentioned in his opus, New York City has an elephant's memory in regard to mistakes made in the past regarding leniency for authors in jail not to mention second offenders, which I'm sure contributed to the harsh sentencing, debatably excessive, for a drug and gambling addict trying to raise money to score and pay off debts without an actual weapon in his hands.
Regardless, taking the book on its own merits and not on the driving impetus Goldstein had for writing it, here's a very worthy, must read autobiography for perusing; a more or less objectively written tome on the New York penal system, its strengths, its weaknesses, its failure and successes for those incarcerated.
Goldstein lost his father while in jail and the hardship on his family contributed as well to the anxiety of his aging mother. Impotent to be with his family and struck down repeatedly in his efforts to be moved to a prison closer to New York City to reduce this stress on his family (albeit he increasingly insists the main reason he wants the move is to be in a prison where a minyan of ten jewish men could be rounded up mandatory for certain prayers), Goldstein then spent years in excessive and fruitless efforts to get his sentence overturned or reduced.
Keep in mind, Goldstein's point of view in JEW IN JAIL is rooted in self-pity and misplaced justification, including his insistence at seeing himself as superior to others imprisoned alongside him, which includes the grounding one gets from growing up Jewish with its emphasis on education and morality. Ergo the title (and possibly why there are so few jews in jail as violent offenders). However, as objective as much of this story is he never seems to be able to really accept the leveling of the field he achieved when he committed his crime and was incarcerated with individuals from other walks of life due to the fact that all are there for antisocial choices they've made; being a Jew with a white collar background and a college degree doesn't make him less worthy of sentencing than others he's doing time with and one hopes he makes this realization by the conclusion of this story which never happens, however it's one of the fascinating quirks about Goldstein's narrative that kept me turning the pages....not only as to what the next day will hold for his appeals, but if he ever achieves this self awareness and drops this arrogant point of view (which is also typical as part of the illness of the addictive personality and many criminal offenders I feel it would be fair to mention) which apparently he doesn't within the context of this first novel.
As well, what makes this book a must read (and for endless discussion) is that there are many potential Goldsteins of the world and one can argue that reading this book can help the next addictive personality out there who starts to feel desperate. Goldstein's experience can clearly wake up an otherwise confused young person who isn't at the point yet of holding up people to get cash to cop dope.
My only complaint about this book from a literary standpoint is ironically a result of Goldstein's expertise in sports journalism, the same background that I'm sure prepared and developed his prolific writing ability to create JEW IN JAIL; when names are called to move to a new facility the prisoners have been called to the "draft", when gathered to be moved they're in the "bullpen"...well perhaps those are regular prison terms...but I found as I was getting to the end of the book my teeth were starting to clench whenever he introduced a new individual because almost always their name would be followed by height, weight, hair color and race....similar to boxing match descriptives.
Reading JEW IN JAIL harshly brings into focus the failure within the New York State prison system in its continuing insistence to judge and sentence addicts as criminals and not as sick people. While it's admirable the 12 step programs are there to give a lifetime path and a way out to people like Gary trying to stay on top of their problem, why isn't there behavioral therapy for individual prisoners for example? The amount of money put out to keep our prisons running would be cut down enormously if so many weren't returning because their issues are never resolved in the first place..only their "time done"...the sense is the system remains antequated in this regard when prisoners aren't treated as individuals and are considered rehabilitated after time done with as few infractions as possible within the system (only to return more than likely for another and longer go-around). For the drug addict, recidivism is rampant when the prison system is set up to beat down any sense of self esteem which junkies are most lacking in.
And then you're given Goldstein the wannabe mensch's eyeball view of the system itself...and here's one commentary to knosh on: the vindictiveness of not allowing Goldstein, or other prisoners who request it, to move to a facility closer to family, in his case so his moderate means family and aging mother could have easier accessibility to him, is barbaric. Punishing wives, parents, children of prisoners in this way accomplishes nothing and the penal system should review this policy which is a disgrace.
At this time there is no differentiation made by the justice system between the incorrigible sociopath and the addict who's committed a minor "violent" crime in pursuit of his/her next fix; there's no way to assess which is which to the judges in New York State who are responsible to not make another mistake like they made with an Abbott and others who've received leniency and then gone on to plunder and murder in an open society. In any case, because of this sort of inability to judge who will become the more violent offender after incarceration for a more minor violent offense, Goldstein to a certain extent fell between the cracks (there's no circle of trust here that Goldstein is most likely the exception) and as a result served out his time.
It's apparent in JEW IN JAIL that for people just like Goldstein, prison is possibly the only way out of a descent into a lifestyle that will probably lead to worse crime and/or death without an intervention that does involve locked facilities and forced rehabilitation for addiction issues, and this is just as clearly apparent if you read between Goldstein's bellyaching over his excessive sentencing.
Regardless, Goldstein has achieved a remarkable feat with this opus; as a JEW IN JAIL he's done a great mitzvah with the writing of this book for those out there troubled by addiction, a sense of failure and a belief they cannot turn their life around, in addition to exposing unfortunate policies in New York State's penal system.
I'm sure his father, Irving Goldstein, if alive today would proudly have bragged to his friends in Brighton Beach, "my son the writer!";up until his death he retained all the hopes of a loving father for a son he knew had a remarkable gift. I hope JEW IN JAIL reaches addicts' families and friends and all other interested parties and that Goldstein gets a chance to tour colleges, schools and prison to discuss this work...his life is a testament to the power of the individual to choose change, to seek help when illness creeps up instead of falling back into old destructive patterns, and to never be a JEW IN JAIL again.Jew in Jail
The story itself is astonishing, and I would highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially to folks who are taking drugs or thinking of committing a crime......READ THIS BOOK FIRST!
System. When arrested he was deceived by the police and detectives into confessing without the privilege of a lawyer.
We then follow him into the confines of the prison system.
He is transferred from prison to prison in a span of seven years. He is treated with prejudice because of his religion.
He never gives up and challenges the system for his appeal. Gary's well written book captures your heart. You feel like you're in his shoes through out his story. I'm hoping he'll write another book about his continued recovery.
Gary Goldstein started out as a successful person, with graduating from college, having a successful career in some of the biggest names in news, and being a good son to his parents. His life was turned upside down when he became addicted to drugs and alcohol. He was fired from his prestigious job, he quit the 'hard stuff' in drugs, and went to prescription drugs instead. While he did have a valid reason to take pain medice, with a slipped disc in his back and other back problems, his abuse of them led to his downfall.
Along with his drug and alcohol abuse, he was also a habitual gambler. The day before everything started, he was asked by his mother what he was going to do with a toy gun that she found lying on his bed. He lied to her and told her it was for his nephew (who's birthday was coming up). Instead he used the toy gun to hold up three laundry mats/dry cleaners. Though his moves were strategic, in that the stores he hit wasn't using video cameras, and they were ran with the old style of cash registers where they can open it up with a press of a button, he found himself 'needing a drink' after the three robberies. Already intoxicated from pills and alcohol, he went to a couple of stores to buy himself a drink.
After getting arrested, and spilling his beer, he finds himself in the hands of cops without having his miranda rights spoke to him, officers who coerced his confession by offering Gary his pills, and promises to go home. Gary went through an officer written confession (which he signed), a self-written confession, and a video-taped confession before he was put in jail.
After finding out he wasn't going home, he quickly realizes that he was put up to framing himself. From that point on it's a fight with the judicial system in getting what he was promised. However, the process took longer than anticipated and Gary's father passed away in the process. The entire story is about Gary's troubles, regrets, daily routine, and his process of learning how the system screwed him over.
Review Notes: As stated above, I was hesitant in reading this book. The sheer size of the book was in itself frightening, but if you are hesitant like me let me give you some advice. Read it. This book really opened my eyes to the judicial system and how crooked it really is. The way a simple news story can turn a judges mind, even if it wasn't about the defendant was mind blowing. I recommend this book to ANYONE who has a troubled youth or adult in their family. I've learned a lot from this, and a lot of the book hit home for people in my family.
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