State seeks extension to fix prison space issue

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which in 2014 filed the petition that led to the High Court order, slammed the state’s request for more time.

March 5, 2018 04:23
2 minute read.
Prison jail cell illustrative

Prison. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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The state formally requested on Sunday that the High Court of Justice give it a nine-year extension, until 2027, to fulfill the order to give each prisoner a minimum of 4 sq.m. of cell space.

In June, then-justice Elyakim Rubinstein announced at his retirement ceremony that the state would need to rectify the lack of sufficient space per cell within 18 months, by January 2019.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which in 2014 filed the petition that led to the High Court order, slammed the state’s request for more time.

“The state continues to disregard prisoners’ rights and intends to arbitrarily ignore the ruling of the High Court,” it said. It also criticized the state for acting like the only solution was to build more prisons “when it is obvious to everyone that the right solution is to significantly reduce the number of prisoners [by] using alternatives to prison.”

The court decision had also required the state to make sure that all prisoners have a minimum of 3 sq.m. of cell space within nine months of the ruling, while providing 18 months for the state to comply with Israeli and international law on the issue, which indicates a minimum of 4 sq.m per prisoner.

Trying to justify the long extension request, the state said a recent government decision authorized NIS 2 billion over nine years to build facilities and address other issues as part of a total NIS 2.8b. allocation.

Moreover, the state said that it would need to make a long-term revision of detention policies so that fewer persons were detained in general, which would take time.

In addition, the state said it planned to pass an emergency law to allow for a large number of releases in a small period of time to start reducing the number of prisoners even in the short term.

Also, the state notified the court that the cell-space issue had already been addressed for around 1,800 out of the 6,000 cells and that 823 new proper-sized cells would be built by 2019.

Despite all the points made by the state, The Jerusalem Post has learned that while there may be some time extension, it will be tough to convince the court to tack on an additional nine years.

In the June ruling, Rubinstein said unequivocally that the state was violating prisoners’ “basic rights to human dignity” by running facilities with cells that were too small.

The state had already admitted that its position at the start of the case did not fully comply with the requirements of the law, but that it has made progress in addressing the shortcomings.

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