Dangerous sex offenders may be released from prison unless more funding is provided for psychiatric evaluations, Professor Moshe Kottler, head of the Israel Prisons Service's mental health center, warned Health Ministry Director General Professor Avi Israeli recently.

"Dangerous prisoners may be released without a professional evaluation," Kottler said in a letter to Israeli, explaining that the Be'er Yaakov Center for Mental Health, which evaluates the degree to which imprisoned sex offenders pose a threat to the public, is on the verge of being unable to function properly. Staffers are being required to carry out as many as 30 risk evaluations per month.

The Center for Mental Health is asking for a budget of NIS 1 million next year, which it says would permit it to hire sufficient staff.

According to a 2006 law on protecting the public from sex offenders, the Center for Mental Health must evaluate how much of a threat sex offenders eligible for parole are liable to pose to the public. In cases where prisoners are deemed moderately to highly likely to endanger the public, the prosecution may require them to be placed under supervision following their release.

Since the law took effect nine months ago, 233 evaluations have been carried out. Of these, 82 prisoners were rated as posing a low threat, while 141 were classified as moderate to high risks.

However, the Center for Mental Health had originally been expected to carry out only 120 evaluations per year.

According to Constitution Committee Chairman Menachem Ben-Sasson, the Finance Ministry had promised a NIS 15 million allocation to implement the law. He described the repeated delays in the transfer of funds as "unbelievable," but expressed hope that the funding problem would be resolved Monday, during another meeting of his committee on implementation of the law.