No new jails means overcrowding, ministry warns

The number of inmates in the nation's prisons will rise by 8,000 by the year 2025, and severe overcrowding is certain unless the government provides funds to build more penal institutions, the Public Security Ministry said on Sunday. There were 22,725 prisoners in Israel as of last month. The expected rise "will result from an increase in the fight on crime," the ministry said in a statement, predicting that 600 additional prisoners will find themselves behind bars every year through 2012. In the medium-term, from 2013 to 2020, 500 new prisoners will appear each year, 2021 to 2025 will see 470 new prisoners a year, the ministry predicted. The figures in the latest report clash with earlier estimates released by the ministry, which said 400 new prisoners would be added to the penal system every year. "The short-term future will see a significant rise in the number of prison sentences handed down by the courts," the statement said. "To furnish a response, a significant allocation of funds will be needed. The cost of constructing new prison facilities is estimated at around NIS 7 billion, not including the construction costs for replacing old prisons that struggle to provide suitable living conditions," it continued. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has said he views the allocation of resources to prisons as vital in the fight against crime and the safeguarding of personal security. He called on the government to act "without delay" to allocate the required funds.