IDF’s Neve Tzedek prison to open in 2020

Military trying additional reforms to decrease number of soldiers behind bars.

May 13, 2019 06:00
3 minute read.
Prison jail cell illustrative

Prison. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Two years after Israel’s military announced the tender for a new military prison compound, the new Neve Tzedek military prison is expected to open in 2020.

The prison in Bet Lid will replace Prison 4 in Tzrifin and Prison 6 between Atlit and Haifa and will contain 950 cells, each holding seven inmates who will each have an area of 4.5 square meters.

According to senior IDF officials the construction of the new military prison, which will be more than 30,000 square meters and spread over 150 dunams, is expected to cost a total of NIS 220 million.

While the new prison is expected to provide better conditions to inmates, who until now have served their time behind bars in old British military bases, a senior officer admitted that some inmates will still have to live in tents.

The new compound will also hold the military courts and the IDF’s Military Advocate General allowing soldiers to walk by foot and not have to be handcuffed when they are moved around all aspects of the IDF’s justice system.

According to other senior IDF officers in the Manpower Directorate, male and female soldiers were sent to prison 14,731 times in 2018, down from 15,685 in 2017 and 17,018 in 2016. In comparison, the number of times soldiers were sent to prison in 2013 was 21,000.

Though the number of times soldier were imprisoned have decreased over the years, soldiers still spend on average between one to two months in prison.

Similar to civilian prisons, women and men are housed in different buildings and soldiers are separated based on the severity of the crime.

The army has also been in the process of reforming it’s military justice system with a focus on reducing the number of soldiers sitting behind bars.

The number of IDF soldiers imprisoned has also declined over the years, some 10,240 soldiers were imprisoned in 2017. Close to half were imprisoned for desertion and another 20% for going absent without official leave (AWOL), other soldiers have been imprisoned for drug-related offenses and even crimes such as rape and murder.

One pilot program currently being run by the military not only looks at the soldier but also at his financial situation and includes social workers who help the family.

The program began in January 2018 and has 27 soldiers who serve in the Air Force and Technological and Logistics Directorate currently taking part.

According to a senior officer involved with the program, it gives the opportunity for soldiers to avoid going to prison by taking part in the year long program in which they must meet officers of the court once per month for regular updates.

“We have to start thinking of a win-win situation for the army and the soldier,” a senior officer said. “We have to start looking at the future of the soldier, not his past.”

One soldier who has gone through the program told reporters on Sunday that had it not been for this program he would have dropped out of the army.

Sergeant Omer, who serves as a combat soldier in the Air Force, deserted for close to 120 days following problems in his unit and with his commander. When given the chance to partake in the program, Omer jumped at the opportunity and avoided going to prison.

His commander, Maj. Dvir told reporters that the program “gives [him] tools that I don’t have... It gives the soldiers a civilian who they can talk to in a way that I, as their commander, can’t.”

Explaining that one of Omer’s best friends was killed in the December terror attack at the Givat Assaf Junction, Dvir said that the social worker was there to help Omer through a time where he could have fallen through the cracks.

“He wanted to leave the army, and now he’s one of the best soldiers I have.”

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