News-hungry Inmate Takes Prison to Court

By E.B. Solomont

Published September 16, 2005, issue of September 16, 2005.
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In the world of news, last week’s headlines are old hat — as anyone who has received a late paper can attest. But some can handle the aggravation better than others. One newspaper reader, a former inmate of the federal prison at Fort Dix, N.J., was so frustrated by his papers’ consistent lateness, he was moved to file suit against the prison system that once housed him.

Former Allegheny County, Pa., Judge Joseph Jaffe — who recently served 27 months in jail for extortion — is claiming that his copies of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, which should have taken just days reach him, consistently arrived about two weeks late. Jaffe, who now works as a law clerk, filed his suit on behalf of all Fort Dix inmates.

Attempts by the Forward to reach the former judge were unsuccessful.

“We’ve always known that there are people… who anxiously await their Chronicle every week,” Barbara Befferman, CEO at the Jewish Chronicle, told the Forward. “And this was another such person.”

Mike Truman, a public information specialist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said that mail delivery is “not usually a problem,” and that prisons have internal grievance procedures in place to handle complaints. But delivery time also “depends on the volume” of mail being handled at a particular institution, Truman said. “I am not trying to make excuses, but Fort Dix” — which houses more than 4,000 inmates — “is one of the largest federal prisons in the United States.”

A spokesperson for the Post-Gazette couldn’t be reached for comment, but according to the paper’s Web site, the paper offers the following mail delivery policy to its subscribers: “Our target time for delivery is 6:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and 7:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Among the factors effecting [sic] delivery times are late breaking news, weather, and the size of the paper.” And, it would seem, whether or not the reader is housed in a penal institution.

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