I want to thank the JT for publishing Marc Shapiro’s thoughtful article on Elsa Newman (“Judaism Behind Bars,” Oct. 25) and her travails as an incarcerated Jew behind bars in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. Elsa had exemplified the laudable values of the Judeo-Christian teachings in her work over her 11-year incarceration, helping hundreds of inmates to complete their GEDs, do college-level work and, as a former attorney, help with their legal matters. She has been teaching computer and yoga to other inmates and helping to increase their knowledge of healthy eating through her work with the prison gardens in Jessup.
I want to join those who deeply believe in Elsa’s innocence and have written to and testified in court many times regarding the miscarriage of justice and the violation of Elsa’s constitutional rights in her case. Elsa Newman’s story is emblematic of the brokenness of the Maryland Family Court System, the failure of Child Protective Services in her county and the shocking vendetta against her by the then Montgomery County prosecutor that to this very day continues to prevent her from gaining her freedom for a crime that was confessed to by another inmate and that Elsa never committed.
I have known Elsa Newman for over 14 years, dating to the child advocacy group we started and promoted. I was a Maryland state legislator at the time I met her and was preparing a package of bills with Elsa’s legal guidance to correct a number of loopholes in Maryland’s child abuse laws that allowed abusers to get off scot-free. As an officer of the court, Elsa who always worked within the system, was arrested mere days before she was to speak to a statewide forum of child advocates to gain their support for passage of our package of bills, scheduled for hearings in the upcoming legislative session.
Elsa was arrested because her legal efforts to protect her children from severe child abuse were scurrilously opposed by everyone in that county’s family court system. To this day, I cannot understand how any honorable prosecutor could have brought a case against her, knowing there was no supporting evidence that she was involved in the crime committed against the [alleged] abuser.
Elsa Newman is a heroine in my book, and I have confidence that she will receive justice soon.
Joan B. Pitkin
Former State Delegate