UPDATED ON JULY 8th
Upon the request of Rabbi Barry Freundel, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia has issued an order requesting that Freundel serve the remainder of his 6 1/2-year sentence at a satellite camp either in Otisville, N.Y. or Miami, Fla.
The June 9 order, which was signed by Judge Judith Retchin, cited “the unusual nature” of Freundel’s sentence, Freundel’s “desire to continue his observance of Orthodox Judaism and to avail himself of rehabilitation programs” and “the lack of religious and rehabilitative programs” in the D.C. Jail.
A decision on where Freundel will complete his sentence will be made by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the D.C. Department of Corrections.
Rabbi Barry Freundel will serve his 6 ½-year sentence for voyeurism in the D.C. jail and not be transferred to a federal facility, which is often less restrictive.
Because he was convicted on misdemeanor, and not felony, charges, he will remain in the local facility, according to Sylvia Lane, government and public affairs coordinator for the D.C. jail.
“D.C. jail is rougher, way rougher, than federal prison,” said Lonny Bramzon, a criminal defense attorney and radio host in Washington. “When you are in the D.C. jail, you are with the guys on the street.”
Freundel was convicted on 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism, and has been in the D.C. Central Detention Facility since he was sentenced May 15 for surreptitiously videotaping women as they prepared to use the spiritual bath at the National Capital Mikvah in Georgetown.
Freundel’s attorney, Jeffrey Harris, did not respond to several telephone messages and emails. However, when Freundel was first taken to the D.C. jail, Harris said he expected Freundel to be moved to a federal facility, where he would have an easier time being an observant Jew.
“He is in the D.C. jail where they never heard of a tallit or tefillin. We will see if the D.C. jail will accommodate an Orthodox Jew as they do for Christians and Muslims,” Harris wrote in an email two months ago.
“Not easy being a Jew in the D.C. jail. And so it goes,” his email continued.
The medium-security jail, according to its website, “houses pretrial offenders, sentenced misdemeanants and convicted felons awaiting transfer to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” It currently has 1,043 inmates.
Spending more than a year in the D.C. jail is unusual, Bramzon said.
If Freundel had been convicted in a federal court other than in the District of Columbia, he could have been sent to a federal prison or a satellite camp connected to a federal facility where he probably would have served with nonviolent drug dealers, money-launderers and other white-collar criminals, said Bramzon.
Federal prisons are home to “a little bit of a better crowd,” he said.
Some inmates in the D.C. jail are awaiting trial or have been convicted of violent crimes, including murder, Bramzon said.
Also, he said Freundel would have had a better chance of being housed with other Orthodox Jews if he had been sent to a federal prison. “He’ll never have a minyan [in the D.C. jail], that’s for sure.”
Victims “who want blood, they should be very happy” with the decision to keep Freundel in Washington, Bramzon said.
Serving a multi-year sentence in the D.C. jail is “uncommon,” agreed Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel, executive director of the Aleph Institute – N.E. Regional Headquarters. His organization assists Jewish inmates, visiting them on holidays and making sure they are able to observe their religion.
Vogel called Freundel’s placement “a very well-thought-out punishment,” because Freundel will remain in the community and have access to programs that will help his re-entry into society.
Regardless of where he serves, Freundel will be able to obtain kosher food, Vogel said.
Lane said that the Department of Corrections “is making provisions [for Freundel] to practice his religious faith — this is a standard part of our religious programming.”
Lane explained in an email that although she could not address Freundel specifically, “[h]ousing decisions affecting inmates are made on an individualized basis and take into account factors such as security, behavioral, health and mental health needs. Safety and security for the inmate population and facility, as well as the overall well-being of the inmate guide housing decisions.”