Police at the scene of a crime in Rameh in northern Israel.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
The cabinet approved a reform on Sunday that aims at increasing efforts to rehabilitate convicted minors and provide alternatives to detention as part of a broader push to reduce the number of prisoners nationally.
Originally, the program was put forward by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Social Welfare Minister Haim Katz, whose ministries have worked intensively on the issue since September.
Overall, the desired result is that there be fewer minors in prison and that those in prison serve shorter sentences.
Shaked highlighted four main points to the reforms.
Firstly, they will reduce the time it takes the officials involved to review a convicted minor’s file for the possibility of alternative detentions or for getting an outright release.
Part of the idea is to locate candidates for early release or alternative detention shortly after they are taken in by police so that they can be taken out of prison before prison becomes their “new normal.”
Secondly, they will open up the process to potentially free almost all convicted minors as long as they are released into the right circumstances. This program will allow for the release of many more individuals than who would be let go under the current conditions.
The goal of this is for every released minor to have a rehabilitation program in place to facilitate their reintegration into society and to minimize the likelihood of the minor committing more crimes.
In contrast, in the current situation, some minors are not released because a program is not in place, and some are released with no program in place, often leading to them violating the law again.
According to an inter-ministerial report, 75% of convicted minors who are released end up back in jail for other crimes within five years
. Out of the 47 cases reviewed by the interministerial committee, seven minors were sent back to prison eight times, 13 were sent back six times and 17 were sent back five times. Most of these minors had no rehabilitation program in place.
Thirdly, minors who have failed to properly integrate into society once they have been released or who are viewed as being the most at risk of violating another law will be included in the “envelope” program, in which they spend most of their time at a designated refuge residence with intensive attention from specialists and role models.
Shaked recognized that this program would need to be modified to account for the specific needs of minors.
The fourth and parallel point was to carefully select more ideal residences and situations for all convicted minors to live at and integrate into upon their release.
A steering committee led by lawyer Michal Gold is due to make practical recommendations for implementing this program by September 16
Shaked praised the initiative, saying: “The government is taking responsibility for the future of our youth. Detention needs to be the last resort... Every soul who we save from a life of crime and who can return from the margins to reintegrate fully is like an entire world.”
A spokesman for Shaked had not responded by press time about whether this initiative would impact the government’s broader approach to prisoner policy.
Last week, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to propose a program to get all prisoners the minimum cell space accorded to them under domestic and international law, and to do so much faster than the nine years the state said it needed.
Part of any such program would be releasing more prisoners and trying to rehabilitate more of them, though this would need to apply also to adults.
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