FULL TEXT: New York, July 6. -- The plight of a prisoner in the custody of Sheriff David H. Knott and who is one of his guests in the old Ludlow street jail is a problem that is perplexing both the sheriff and his counsel. It has resolved itself into the, question “Can a civil prisoner serve a life sentence?”
It seems to be the consensus of opinion of both the sheriff and his counsel it must be answered in the affirmative until such time as the law is amended. The man is David Goldhaber. He has been in Ludlow street jail since March 3, last, as a member of the alimony club, for alleged failure to pay his wife, Anna, $500 arrears of alimony for support. Goldhaber was first arrested on August 14, 1917. His wife feared he would leave the State. He gave bond on March 5, last. He was surrendered by his bondsman and sent to jail.
If Goldhaber was in jail on a contempt of court order he could serve six months and automatically be set free, but the order of arrest gives the sheriff no alternative but to hold him in his custody indefinitely.
The prisoner declared he finds himself in jail without funds and unable to par his wife alimony.
The Sheriff, on consultation with his attorneys, George Olvany and George I. Engle, was informed there was no provision in law whereby an alimony prisoner can effect his release until the wife has been paid her alimony, and that unless the law is amended or the courts order complied with, Goldhaber must remain a life member of the alimony club in the old bastile.
Sheriff Knott, discussing the plight of Goldhaber, referred to it as one of the horrors of imprisonment for debt, and quoted an opinion of Justice Vans, of the court of appeals, as applying to the situation, in which the Justice said:
“Imprisonment for debt dies hard. It is barbarous, cruel and senseless. It puts its victim in jail in order to make him do something which in most instances the imprisonment itself prevents him from doing.”
[“Can’t Pay Alimony, Faces Jail For Life,” The Washington Times (D.C.), Jul. 6, 1919, p. 9]
For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts