General Information Military Prisons
Prisons in Israel Print E-mail

"Imprisonment by its very nature necessitates a denial of freedom, but it does not justify degrading a man. Prison walls should not separate the prisoner from humanity. A prison should not become a cage."

Supreme Court Justice, Aharon Barak, High Court verdict 540-546/84, IsrSC 40(1) 567, 573. (Yosef et al v. Director of the Central Prison of Judea and Samaria).

The Israel Prison Service

The Israel Prison Service (hereinafter IPS) is subject to the Ministry of Public Security, and is the organization in charge of prisons in Israel and of managing inmates, both prisoners and detainees.

A commissioner recommended by the Minister of Public Security and appointed by the government heads the IPS. The Commissioner is the highest authority of the IPS and is responsible for command, control and managing the prison service in accordance with goals set by the IPS.

The Prison Service operates within the laws, regulations, and obligatory internal regulations. The primary law governing prison management is the Prisons Ordinance (New Version) (hereinafter: the Ordinance) and regulations issued pursuant to the Ordinance - Prisons Regulations – 1978. Israeli criminal legislation also contains laws and regulations that have a direct bearing on the conduct of prisons, detention, and interrogation:  including the Parole law - 2001, the Criminal Procedure law (Interrogating Suspects) - 2002, the Criminal Procedure Law (Enforcement Powers - Detention) – 1996, etc.

The Ordinance grants the IPS Commissioner authority to issue, with the approval of the Minister of Public Security, general provisions for the IPS in the matter of administrative, disciplinary and regime procedures to ensure proper functioning of the system. The Ordinance also grants the Commissioner authority to issue instructions specifying how to execute the abovementioned general provisions (Section 80 of the Ordinance.) It must be noted that the IPS's general provisions are based on the content and principles of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (IPS Directive number 5.05).

Incarceration facilities

Today, the IPS is responsible for approximately 28 incarceration facilities, some of them transferred from police to the IPS only after 2000. These facilities include prisons and detention centers with maximum, medium, and minimum levels of security: IPS data for the middle of 2010 show 21,564 prisoners, out of which 6,620 are security prisoners including 40 women and 300 minors. The IPS forecasts that by 2025 the number of inmates will increase by more than 8,000, i.e., an increase of about 550 prisoners and detainees per year. The cost of maintaining an inmate is near NIS 100,000 a year.

Incarceration facilities are located in all parts of the country. Some sites include several facilities, such as the Sharon prison complex that consists of the following prisons: Hasharon, Hadarim, Rimonim, and Ofek Juvenile prison. A similar situation exists in Ramla with six incarceration facilities in one area: Ayalon, Nitzan, Givon, Ma'asiyahu, Nevei Tirzah prison for women, and the IPS Medical Center. The IPS also has an additional 20 prisons and detention centers. A secret prison, known as Prison 1391, became public knowledge in 2002. This prison's legality was the subject of much litigation in the High Court of Justice. The State admitted the existence of the prison, but claimed that it was not an illegal prison, and in 2006 notified the High Court that the prison was no longer in use. According to the Ordinance, prisoner classification is done at different levels, mainly based on divisions between detainees and prisoners, security prisoners and other prisoners, criminal prisoners and civil prisoners, adult prisoners and juvenile prisoners, and so on.

Security Prisoners

Prisoners and detainees are classified as security prisoners in accordance with the definition of "Security Prisoner" in Israel Prison Service Commission Ordinance No. 04.05.00 – “Definition of a Security Prisoner. Classification is an internal administrative decision not based on legislation. The definition of a security prisoner derives from the nature and character of the offense and if it was committed against a security backround or out of nationalistic motives. The classification determines the place of incarceration and the prisoner's rights. Commission Ordinance Number 03.02.00 "Rules Relating to Security Prisoners," states that security prisoners should be held in separate prisons and/or in separate wings of mixed prisons. Security prisoners are held in the following prisons: Ofer, Ketziot, Gilboa, Shita, Megiddo, Ohalay Kedar, Nafha, and Ramon. Security Prisoners are held in separate wings in the following prisons: Eshel, Shikma, Damon, Hasharon, Hadarim, Nitzan, and Ayalon.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of prisoners and detainees from the occupied area to another area and holding them outside of the occupied area. Nevertheless, Palestinian detainees, residents of the West Bank, are being permanently held in detention facilities in Israel, except for those held in Ofer Prison near Ramallah. Prisoners under interrogation by the General Security Services (GSS) are being held at detention facilities in Petach-Tikva, at the Russian Compound (Al-Muskubiya) in Jerusalem, the Kishon Detention Center (Jalame) in the north, Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, and the Beersheba Prison. Military courts dealing with extending the detention of prisoners are located adjacent to all of these facilities (except for Beersheba). Security prisoners are dispersed throughout Israel, from Ketziot Prison in the south, near the Egyptian border, to Zalmon Prison in the Galilee. Ketziot Prison even has a military court for Administrative Detention. The transfer of detainees from the West Bank into Israel results in loss of contact with their families and lawyers living in the West Bank.

In March 2010, the Supreme Court rejected a petition, filed by human rights organizations in 2009, demanding that prisoners and detainees, residents of the West Bank, should not be held outside the West Bank since this was a violation of their rights and contrary to international law, Supreme Court 2690/09 Yesh Din et al v. the IDF Commander of the West Bank et al.

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