Comptroller: Detainees released in middle of West Bank without transportation home

Detainees released in middle of night from police stations often forced to hitchhike home, report finds.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
At a time when the hitchhiking phenomenon is being scrutinized, a man under arrest at a police station in the West Bank was released with few options of getting home other than hitchhiking, according to a report released Tuesday by the state comptroller.
The police misconduct was one of a number of examples presented in the report, which revealed various complaints filed against public bodies.
In the report, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said that although prisoners’ rights are circumscribed while in prison, their rights “are not completely negated and one is obligated to preserve them even within the walls of a prison.”
The forced-hitchhiking complaint was issued by MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi), founder of the Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria.
The comptroller noted in his report that the police in the West Bank releases people without the means to get home on a regular basis, to which the police replied that most stations in the area are located near major public transport facilities.
According to the report, Struck said that the same detainee who was left to hitchhike was also kept with his lands and legs cuffed while jailed, despite the fact that he was inside a locked cell and in need of medical treatment.
The report said that the comptroller found that the handcuffing of prisoners locked in cells is commonplace, and called on the police to examine how often the practice takes place.
Regarding the need to take the detainee for medical treatment, the report quoted the police as saying that the man told them he wanted to wait until after his questioning was over, and that their procedure is not to give medical treatment to someone who refuses it except in life-threatening situations.
In another case, the State Comptroller’s Office said that they received a complaint from an inmate who tested positive for Hepatitis C and was not given treatment for a decade, adding that the Prisons Service never gave an explanation as to why the man did not receive treatment.
The report also covered the complaint of a former female inmate who was prevented from visiting her boyfriend, an inmate at an IPS facility. The IPS said it did not allow the visit because of the inmate’s behavior, even though it goes against procedure.
The Prisons Service is meant to approve or deny visits on the basis of the visitor’s relationship with the inmate, and not according the inmate’s behavior. If the visitor is a former inmate, then the visit also depends on whether they are still criminally active and on the time passed since their release.
The comptroller determined there was no justification to refuse the visit.
Besides cases where the comptroller called on the IPS for lacking common sense, there were also incidents in which the comptroller pointed out the Prisons Service was ignoring its own regulations.
In one case, for example, a woman was not given bedsheets or a pillow case while in jail pending possible indictment.
The IPS responded to this complaint by saying that guards were instructed not to provide these items to suspects being held pending indictment, believing them to be higher suicide risks as a group.
Shapira pointed out that the IPS’s code mandated that these items must be given exactly to such inmates, and only then did the Prisons Service acknowledge it was ignoring its own mandate and canceled the directive that violated it.
The same woman also complained she was improperly strip-searched, to which the IPS initially replied that under certain circumstances it has the right and mandate to perform the strip-search.
However, when confronted by the comptroller about the circumstances of the search, in which the woman was being brought to court for a hearing, the IPS admitted that such searches were specifically not in its mandate.
In another complaint, a man who was arrested for failing to pay a civil fine was improperly handcuffed while in transit, including in public areas.
The IPS tried to justify the handcuffing as complying with its regulations for handcuffing prisoners in transit, but the comptroller pointed out that this regulation needed to be struck since it explicitly violates the law dealing with more lenient treatment for prisoners whose only offense is civil, and which permits handcuffing them only if they try to escape.
A different complaint involved a security prisoner who was unjustifiably being held in cells that were much smaller than those of non-security prisoners, and which were infested with insects and that had no privacy or separation between the cell and the bathroom.
The IPS admitted it needed to improve the situation and reported that it had brought in an exterminator to deal with the infestation.