One Woman's Story of Finding Faith and Strength While in Solitary Confinement
Date:  09-23-2015

The words of her mother, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, echoed in her head
The following article by criminal justice reform advocate Evie Litwok was published in Forward on September 20, 2015. Litwok recently completed JustLeadershipUSA’s year-long “Leading with Conviction” training program.

How Surviving Solitary Confinement Changed My Life

From the look on her face, and the way she entered my room, I knew my mother was about to say something serious. Leaning against her walker, she watched me move closer to her. “It will be harder for you to be in prison than it was for me to be in a concentration camp,” she said. “Mom,” I said, “you were in Auschwitz. How can you possibly compare the two?” “I was 12 years old then, and you are 60,” she replied.

At the time of my sentencing in 2010, I was living with my mother, having moved in to care for her in 2009. It was a rough winter. She struggled terribly with her balance, barely making it from one room to another. I was her live-in, around-the-clock nurse. My mother went with me to my sentencing, where she pleaded with the judge to keep me out of prison. “Your Honor,” she said through tears, “I am a survivor of the Holocaust. I have had enough pain for a lifetime. My health is failing and I will die without my daughter, who takes care of me.” Shaking his head, the judge responded: “I can’t do that. She is sentenced to prison for two years.”

Despite hoping I could do my time under home confinement, and an appeal by my attorney, I lost. And in December 2010 I packed away my personal belongings and prepared to go to prison for tax evasion and mail fraud, not really believing that prison would be harder than a concentration camp. It would be years later, when I was placed in solitary confinement, that my mother’s prescient words came back to me. “I was young,” she had said. “I didn’t know what was going on. You are an old woman and aware of what you lost.”

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