Israel's High Court orders jail to improve some prisoner conditions

The court decision calls for the state to implement changes regarding cell space within 18 months.

Jail (illustrative) (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Jail (illustrative)
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
The state must give all prisoners a minimum of 4 square meters of cell space within 18 months, the High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday.
Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the lead petitioner in the case which dates back to 2014, responded praising the ruling as “very good news for the rights of prisoners and detainees. Human rights do not stop at the walls of a prison.”
Deputy High Court President Elyakim Rubinstein announced the ruling as part of his retirement ceremony with the deadlines he and two other justices set. The timing gave the ruling more weight than typical rulings of the type, which suffice with mere verbal rebukes.
The court decision required the state to at least make sure that all prisoners have 3 square meters of cell space within 9 months and then set 18 months for prisons to come into full compliance with Israeli and international law on the issue.
Rubinstein said unequivocally that the state was currently 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.
However, it had filed legal briefs updating the court that it has made progress addressing the shortcomings and requesting flexibility from the court with addressing remaining issues.
In contrast, ACRI had demanded that the state fully cure shortcomings and took the position that the state was stalling unnecessarily on certain issues.
For example, the state had advised the court that it was building new prison facilities which will have cell space of 6.5 square meters per prisoner.
But it had also said that some of this would not happen until 2019 and was noncommittal about when some funds would be budgeted for the new facilities.
The High Court ruling, while giving the state some breathing space, also held the state’s feet to the fire and rejected a blanket reprieve based on the state’s initial work toward improving on the issue.