Prison for VIPs: Not a regular convict, not the life of a leader

A convicted prime minister is likely to follow in the custodial footsteps of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

An Israeli prison guard is seen through a gate at Maasiyahu prison near Ramle, south of Tel Aviv, Israel February 15, 2016. Former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert begins his 19-month prison sentence at Maasiyahu prison on Monday, making him the first former head of government in Israel to go to prison (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
An Israeli prison guard is seen through a gate at Maasiyahu prison near Ramle, south of Tel Aviv, Israel February 15, 2016. Former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert begins his 19-month prison sentence at Maasiyahu prison on Monday, making him the first former head of government in Israel to go to prison
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
The dramatic news delivered by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday evening marks only the beginning of a long legal process, one that might eventually result in the conviction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Should the process end in conviction and a custodial sentence, Netanyahu – like other former public officials – is unlikely to experience the same conditions as the 25,000 or so regular prisoners across Israel’s jails. It would also be far-removed from his current residence on Balfour Street.
A convicted prime minister or other senior leader is likely to follow in the custodial footsteps of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who entered Ma’asiyahu Prison in February 2016 to begin a 19-month sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice.
Former president Moshe Katsav, who served five of a seven-year sentence for rape, and Shas chairman Arye Deri were also imprisoned at Ma’asiyahu, near Ramle.
While Olmert described his transformation from premier to prisoner as “painful and strange,” Israel’s 12th prime minister and former mayor of Jerusalem spent his time in a specially refurbished “VIP” building at the prison for non-security prisoners: cell-block 10.
The special cell-block at the prison, established for convicts requiring additional security, was renovated at a cost of NIS 4.5 million and contained only six sparsely-populated cells prior to his arrival. It also featured an outdoor area, dining room, gym and rooms for meetings with lawyers and family.
While surrounded by prisoners primarily found guilty of committing white-collar crimes, Olmert was still subject to prison rules, chores, head counts and the regular restrictions of daily prison life. Olmert, who was allowed to wear civilian clothes during his imprisonment, was only permitted 30-minute personal visits, following approval from the prison commander.
In accordance with rules applied to all other new inmates, Olmert was permitted to enter prison with some basic items, including four pairs of socks, two towels, two workout jumpsuits and shorts, and one bedsheet and blanket. He was also permitted to take prayer books and other religious items.
Following his early release in July 2017, Olmert faced restrictive conditions until the end of his original sentence of May 2018. Restrictions included a ban on foreign travel, mandatory appearances at a local police station, and weekly meetings with a social worker.
Should Netanyahu suffer the same fate, he can expect similar treatment to Olmert. Far from the same treatment as an average Israeli convict, but certainly not the life of a prime minister that he has enjoyed for the past 10-plus years.



Tags prison