Analysis: Will private prisons solve the problem?

July 10, 2006 21:33
2 minute read.


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


As the annual report of the Public Defender's Office clearly demonstrates, the state of the country's prisons, lockups and courthouse jails is grim. The overcrowding and run-down conditions in the wards and cells have not improved over the past few years and, unless there is a dramatic change, are bound to deteriorate even more in the years to come. The government believes, however, that dramatic change is already here on the wings of private enterprise. On November 11, 2005, it signed a contract with a private consortium headed by Israeli businessman Lev Levayev to build and run the first privately owned prison in the country. The facility, which is to be built near Beersheba, is scheduled to house 800 prisoners. Not everyone regards the private prison as an appropriate solution to the problems facing Israel's prisons. Indeed, there are those who believe the remedy is worse than the disease. Last year, the Human Rights Division of the Ramat Gan Academic College of Law petitioned the High Court, asking it to reject the Knesset law that paved the way for the facility. The petitioners charged that the law violated the Basic Law: Government and the Basic Law: Human Freedom and Dignity. They wrote that the government was delegating one of its most fundamental and "core" responsibilities to the private sector, thereby losing part of its sovereign power. According to one expert quoted in the petition, "The ability to deprive citizens of their freedom, force them to live behind bars and totally regulate their lives is unlike any other power the government has. The responsibility for corrections goes beyond issues of cost efficiency and touches on whether a private company should be able to regulate the affairs of a citizen deprived of his freedom." The petitioners also charged that giving private individuals so much power over others was dangerous since they were not acting in the name of the state and the state would have difficulty controlling their actions. In response to the petition, the state emphasized precisely the improvements in the physical standards of the prison that the private owners would provide. In its tender, the state had demanded that the maximum standards in the state-owned prisons become the minimum standards in the new prison. Thus, for example, the average amount of living space per prisoner in the new facility will be 5.28 square meters. The ratio of social workers to prisoners will be one to 80, compared with one to 120 in the state-owned prisons. The High Court of Justice has made it clear that it takes the issue very seriously. It has appointed a panel of 11 justices to hear the petition. It is obvious that there is a problem in giving private individuals almost total power over other human beings, including the right to punish and discipline them. On the other hand, the court is aware that the government is either unable or unwilling to invest the resources necessary to make the necessary improvements in the facilities. This is the dilemma that the court will face. Of course, it should be noted that even if the court endorses the private prison, the new facility will do nothing to improve the other prisons, let alone the police lockups and courthouse jails. The government will continue to bear responsibility for them.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Jisr az-Zarq
April 3, 2014
Residents of Jisr az-Zarqa beckon Israel Trail hikers to enjoy their town


Cookie Settings