Pray for A Jewish Mother in an American Jail

Valerie Carlton, a Jewish woman who married a non-Jew who became violently abusive, has been kept in solitary in a US prison as her husband tries to get her extradited to where she will not survive.

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Prof. Phyllis Chesler,

Prof. Phyllis  Chesler
Prof. Phyllis Chesler
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A Jewish mother is weeping, not in Ramah, but in an American jail. . On November 10, 2011, she will learn whether a judge will extradite her from Monsey, New York where, according to one of her lawyers, Michael Ettinger, she “faces probable death” in a private for-profit Detention Center in Harford County, Maryland.

This Jewish mother--her name is Valerie (“Serach”) Carlton, was imprisoned for 13 months in that Harford County Detention Center where, unbelievably, she was kept in solitary confinement and tortured in further ways. Why? Because she loves and wanted to protect her young daughter and because she dared to practice her Judaism openly.

Is such a violation of a woman’s civil and religious rights possible in America? Can such a hate crime be legal? Can such a Kafkaesque situation take place in the home of the free and the land of the brave?

Sadly, the answer to all three questions is yes.

Valerie married a man who battered her, abused their young child, and then vowed to destroy her. According to Valerie’s advocates, Russell Carlton turned out to be a vicious psychopath who used his Christian Evangelical and white supremacist brand of Christianity (and his powerful, local connections) to try and “kill the Jew” who dared to return to her Jewish roots, light Sabbath candles, and “practice Judaism” with her daughter.

According to her lawyers and advocates, “both the search warrant and the charging document for the criminal charges against Ms. Carlton stated that she was an Orthodox Jew who practiced Jewish customs with her daughter whenever they were together.”

As if this is a crime.

Although he was the abuser, he falsely accused her of having sexually abused their daughter. These charges were never substantiated but nevertheless, the allegations got her locked up. The other prisoners were carefully told she had sexually abused children and, because prisoners are notoriously cruel to pedophiles, the sheriff put her in isolation “for her own good.”

This is where the guards tried to “break” her, to get her to admit she was “insane,” and to give up full custody, maybe even parental rights, to her child.

Neither the court nor the sheriff—not even the Governor of the State—chose to intervene to spare Valerie’s suffering, not even when nationally recognized experts strongly recommended that she be freed and reunited with her child. To date, Valerie has not seen her daughter for 2 1/2 years.

Worse: Once the authorities realized they would have to release her, they had a guard beat her up—but the guard falsely claimed that she had attacked him; he brought charges. (A video may be viewed at her website www.valeriecarlton.com which shows what really happened). Her jailors warned her that she would soon be re-arrested.

Valerie fled the area and relocated to Monsey, New York.


Other prisoners have died in the Harford County Detention Center. It is known for its “accidental” taser deaths.
But recently, when Valerie’s mother, the maternal grandmother, tried to exercise her visitation rights, Valerie’s husband feared that Valerie might somehow be allowed to see her own daughter. To prevent this, he managed to convince federal marshals to take her from Monsey to New City, in Rockland County, to be held pending a hearing on her extradition back to Maryland.

The charge? She assaulted the guard! Once her ex-husband learned she had been re-arrested, he “immediately consented to the grandmother’s visitation.”

Valerie now faces a potential sentence of up to ten years for a beating she did not commit; in a jail that had no legal right to keep her; where she was literally tortured; and where (get ready for this next shocking bit of news), her “baby son, wrongfully removed from her, ultimately perished  through the County’s malfeasance.”

Yes, they removed her still breast-feeding son from her and put him in state care where he….just died. And they did not allow a rabbi to break the news to her. Not even a psychologist was allowed in to tell her. Her punishers literally tied her down and told her that her son was dead, waiting to see if she would “break.”

Michael Ettinger described her persecutors, including her ex-husband, as “malevolent people who have no problem putting an innocent women in jail in order to destroy her.”

This is a Jewish mother who has known more than a mountain of sorrow, a Jewish mother who faces certain barbaric treatment if she is extradited. Other prisoners have died in the Harford County Detention Center. It is known for its “accidental” taser deaths.

As the author of Mothers on Trial. The Battle for Children and Custody, (now in a new and updated 25th anniversary edition), I have known many similar cases. Yes, in America. However, none are as terrible as this one.

Rabbi Sheftel Meir Neuberger of Baltimore, Maryland, has written a letter on Valerie’s behalf. He confirms that she is a “Baalas Teshuva who has valiantly tried to maintain her adherence to Torah and Mitzvos under very difficult circumstances. She was subjected to very cruel and unusual incarceration…she was abused and physically tortured.

"She moved to the Monsey area….Should she be returned to Harford County her life is clearly in danger. Anyone who can participate in the demonstration on her behalf at the upcoming extradition hearing may be helpful in saving the life of a Bas Yisroel who is being falsely accused and will suffer serious life threatening consequences should she be returned to Harford County.”

Thursday, a demonstration is planned outside the Rockland County courthouse, 1 South Main Street, New City, NY, at 9am.  The hearing is set for 9:30am.

Please pray for her. Send money for her continued defense and legal actions. Be there (or send those you know in Monsey) to be there for Valerie at the courthouse.

Note: The information contained in this article was obtained from one of her lawyers and supporters, Michael Ettinger and from her website.