Prisons Service Commissioner Katy Perry on Thursday put Gilboa Prison warden Freddy Ben-Sheetrit on forced leave as the conflict between Ben-Sheetrit and his superiors over the “Pimping Affair” and the “Gilboa Breakout Affair” escalated.
In September 2021, six prisoners broke out of Gilboa Prison. Although they were soon recaptured and indicted in October 2021, the breakout itself and the failure of several layers of Prisons Service (IPS) personnel to prevent it was considered a national scandal.
Various IPS officials have been fired, and some expected Perry to be fired as well. So far, she has weathered the storm.
In November 2021, Ben-Sheetrit testified before a state commission of inquiry that there was a systemic problem of pimping IPS female guards to certain security prisoners, implying that the top brass of the IPS were covering it up.
Since then, he has been in conflict with Perry and with his direct commanding officer, IPS Northern District Commander Arik Yaakov.
The pimping affair
In December 2021, State Attorney Amit Aisman reopened a criminal probe into the 2015-2017 pimping issues relating to Fatah security prisoner Muhammad Atallah allegedly raping or sexually harassing various female prison guards.
Since the “Pimping Affair” came to the fore, at least six women have filed complaints and Gilboa Prison Intelligence Officer Rani Basha, accused of arranging the pimping for Atallah, was fired.
In March, the state inquiry gave an interim warning to Perry, Yaakov and Ben-Sheetrit that they could all face consequences from the commission’s final decisions when they are issued down the line.
Recently, Yaakov told the inquiry that Ben-Sheetrit’s officers were falsifying internal IPS documents about how long prisoners were kept in certain cells.
Ben-Sheetrit responded by sending a letter to Perry saying he would no longer take orders from or communicate with Yaakov, due to his alleged slandering of him and his officers.
Perry responded by ordering Ben-Sheetrit to continue to take orders from Yaakov as part of the standard chain of command.
When he doubled down in refusing to recognize Yaakov’s orders, Perry quickly decided to suspend him.
Ben Sheetrish 'undermined' IPS chain of command
Until now, Ben-Sheetrit has benefited from a form of immunity since he was the whistleblower of sorts on the “Pimping Affair.”
This is ironic since, had he not raised that scandal, he might have already been fired for being the Gilboa Prison warden who allowed the breakout of the six prisoners in 2021 to occur.
His public refusal to follow the chain of command might have finally given Perry an excuse to remove him, saying she viewed his refusal “with great severity” as “such actions undermine the basic principles of any security organization which are framed by a hierarchical chain of command structure.”
Ben-Sheetrit responded that Yaakov should have been fired rather than himself, since those probing the IPS have said there were even greater problems with Yaakov’s command in other prisons than in Gilboa Prison.