May 22, 2008

In loving memory of my son Geoffrey Gelfand

Submitted by: Dexter Gelfand

On April 15, my son Geoffrey Gelfand passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He experienced much unnecessary and unfortunate suffering at the hands of the powers that be during his imprisonment in Union County Jail in 2004. He was frequently denied medication for his removed thyroid, to the point where he was debilitated mentally and physically as often as not, and as his disease returned to his throat, causing bleeding, and pain to the point where eating was so difficult that he'd lose as much as 30 pounds a month. His jailers denied proper medical examination and treatment despite his pain and suffering, which was quite alarming to his cell mates.

The jail's idea of medical responsibility was to give him access to a doctor who told him "You're fine". Well, he wasn't fine at all. When he complained about pain and bleeding from his throat, this "doctor" callously responded, "You didn't care about that when you were out on the street, did you?", ordered no tests, and sent him back to his cell to suffer.

By the grace of God, after 6 months of degradation and suffering, my son Geoffrey was transferred to state prison. By this point his condition was so obviously dire that within 48 hours of the transfer he was mercifully brought to a hospital intensive care unit. I received a phone call from the prison to give me the horrifying news: my son had a new incidence of cancer. Had he remained in Union County jail, it would not have been long at all before he'd have expired. Ultimately, delay in treating his tumor necessitated his losing his voice box. He spent his last 2-1/2 years unable to speak.

Geoffrey spent the last months of his life preparing for his passage-more precisely, preparing others. He carefully planned out gifting his loved ones, spending time with them, saying all that he wanted to say, giving and leaving something for everyone. He spent much of his last year trying to prepare his father to be able to accept his coming passing. Despite his pain and fear, he was magnificently thoughtful of those he loved.

His character dwarfed that of the petty and small minded children charged with responsibilities at the Union County Jail. I hope each person who made that choice to be so inhuman to my son and others reads this story, and through some small miracle, in some slight way, feels just a little ping of conscience about what a vicious and hurtful being they have reduced their self to. Maybe, just a little bit, they will think about this the next time they find their self in a position to treat a defenseless prisoner with or without consideration for that person's well being.