The Nazareth District Court on Wednesday welcomed an agreement by the Prisons Service to permit a convicted sex offender who denies committing rape to undergo a course of rehabilitative therapy in prison, marking a significant change in policy.

Traditionally, the Prisons Service only provides therapy for convicted sex offenders who admit their crimes, on the grounds that if a prisoner denies committing the sex offenses, he or she fails to take responsibility for those crimes and has no insight into their severity.

The defendant, Mohammad Badarneh, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2002 after being convicted of three counts of raping a minor, but has always maintained his innocence.

Badarneh petitioned the Haifa District Court after the prison parole board refused his application for early release, mostly on the grounds that he had not received any therapy for sex offenders during his sentence and could therefore pose a danger to the public.

Although Judges Benjamin Arbel, Shaher Atrash and Asher Kula rejected Badarneh’s petition, they said the decision by the Prisons Service to consider him for rehabilitative therapy marks a positive shift in its position regarding convicted sex offenders who deny their crimes.

In his petition to the court, Badarneh complained that he had not received therapy, and criticized the Prison Service’s denial of rehabilitative treatment to convicted sex offenders who proclaim their innocence.

Badarneh’s attorneys said he was willing to consider a private course of therapy, and then reapply to the parole board for early release – even though Badarneh said he still considers himself innocent.

In the ruling, Arbel noted that the position of the Prisons Service not to provide therapy for sex offenders who claimed their innocence had been the accepted approach for years, but said it “gives rise to a sense of discomfort.”

Arbel referred to a recent Supreme Court judgement by Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who noted that many sex offenders may deny their guilt for “social reasons and reasons of shame,” and said that the Prisons Service should reconsider its approach regarding rehabilitation for prisoners who claim innocence.

Arbel said the reversal in policy by the Prisons Service is a “real turning point” in its position.

“This opens the gates for the prisoner to undergo treatment,” Arbel added, noting that this could improve Badarneh’s position with the parole board. “We hope this shift will constitute a real change in the Prisons Service’s position, and its perceptions regarding rehabilitation programs for sex offenders who deny their guilt.

“In parallel, professional bodies within the Prisons Service should also discuss this issue, in the light of current knowledge and treatment methods, to find a way to treat criminals like [Badarneh].”

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