Ezra: Prisons are overflowing

Katsav blames violence on poor absorption of Ethiopian immigration.

crime scene 88 (photo credit: )
crime scene 88
(photo credit: )
According to the Prisons Service, there are 22,000 people, 2000 of them serving sentences for violent crimes, presently incarcerated in Israel's overcrowded prisons. Of the 22,000, 9,000 are serving time for security offenses, 6,000 for drug dealing or drug abuse and 1,500 for sexual offences. Special precautions have to be taken with regard to 650 prisoners who are in danger of killing each other. These and other figures pertaining to crime and violence in Israel were revealed on Sunday at a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Violence that was appointed last year by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The meeting was held at Beit Hanassi with the participation of President Moshe Katsav. At the meeting, Katsav accused the state's supposed failure to absorb the Ethiopian immigration with the presence of violence in their sector. He said that Israel may have done the Ethiopian immigrants a great injustice by absorbing them poorly into Israeli society. He specifically expressed concern for those Olim who have deteriorated to crime and drug use. The Ministry of Immigration Absorption responded that its figures show a decline in crime among Ethiopian youth. The ministry and the Jewish Agency have recently begun a campaign to mark 30 years of Ethiopian immigration. Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, who heads the committee, told Katsav that judges sentenced many convicted criminals to house arrest because they knew there was no room in the prisons. If there were more room to accommodate prisoners, said a PSA representative, more of them would be behind bars. Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi observed that, whereas in the past there were reasons - albeit unjustified - for violence, "today acts of violence are perpetrated for no reason at all." Most of the perpetrators, he said, came from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. PSA experience has shown that where rehabilitation programs function in prisons chances of recidivism diminish. The present recidivism rate is 70%, with 1200 convicts in prison for the sixth time. Ezra said that requests for additional financial resources would be made in relation to the budget for 2007, but Katsav interjected and said that prevention of violence was sufficiently important to warrant inclusion in the budget for 2006, due to be submitted to the Knesset for approval on April 17. There was still time, he said, to apply for at least a partial allocation in the 2006 budget. According to a Social Affairs Ministry representative, the situation with regard to juvenile delinquents and youth at risk is of major concern. There are 500 boys and girls who are locked up in detention centers, 100 sexually assaulted youth undergoing treatment, and 20,000 youth in various therapeutic frameworks within their communities. "Violence has become a way of life and passes from generation to generation," he said. A Health Ministry representative reported significant increases in victims of domestic violence - especially infants and elderly people - being brought to clinics and hospitals for treatment. There was a tendency in families where violence was repetitive to go from one hospital to another to avoid detection, she said. However, the Israeli hospital network has now set a computerized interactive database that quickly enables hospital staffers who suspect that an infant has been previously abused to check out the infant's details with other hospitals and, if necessary, bring the matter to the attention of the police.