Half of Inmates in Israeli Jails - Security Prisoners

Palestinian security prisoners make up almost half of all prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

Some 9,800 Palestinian security prisoners are incarcerated in Israeli prisons and the Prisons Service is expecting that their number will grow by nearly 800 to 10,580. Of the current prisoners, about 470 are residents of Israel, including East Jerusalem, and 81 are foreigners. The vast majority, 8,469, are residents of the West Bank, and 762 are from the Gaza Strip.

The data, provided to the defense establishment in anticipation of a possible prisoner release in exchange for Hamas-held Gilad Shalit, or as part of a goodwill gesture for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also offered a breakdown according to militant affiliation.

Accordingly, Fatah leads with at least 4,800 prisoners from its ranks, with Hamas second at 2,546. There are 1,370 prisoners affiliated with Islamic Jihad, while 460 are from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and 120 from the smaller Democratic Front. The remainder are members of smaller groups or were part of an independent activity.

In recent years, responsibility for all security prisoners was passed to the Prisons Service from the IDF and the police. During the past seven years the number of security prisoners held in Prisons Service jails underwent a tenfold increase.

Security sources described the transfer of responsibility for holding security prisoners to the professional care of the Prisons Service as "highly successful."

There are 23,766 prisoners held in installations of the Prisons Service. Among them, 13,965 are held for criminal activity, and 2,068 of them are performing community service as part of their sentence.

The male population of Israel's prisons is 20,516, with 178 women prisoners, and 631 who are minors.

A total of 5,725 Jewish prisoners are serving sentences for criminal activity, 4,246 are Arab Muslims, 300 are Christians, 144 Bedouin, 136 Druze, 134 non-Arab Muslims, and 96 are classified as "other."

This is not their first time in prison for the majority of prisoners, due to recurrent criminal activity. This is the case for about 10,000 prisoners; 4,787 are serving a third prison term, while for 1,428 they have been imprisoned at least six times.

There is a constant rise in the number of prisoners and the Prisons Service is estimating that in 2008 there will be 10,580 security prisoners and 16,760 criminal felons.

The Service has 7,155 wardens, a warden-to-prisoner ratio much higher than what is common in the United States or Western Europe.