247 Israelis Convicted of Domestic Violence Get Early Release, but Only Three Served With Restraining Orders

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Prisoners released early from Hasharon prison, central Israel, December 20, 2018.
Prisoners released early from Hasharon prison, central Israel, December 20, 2018.Credit: Rami Shllush

Almost 250 people convicted of domestic violence were paroled on Thursday as part of a broader release aimed at easing overcrowded prisons, but only three were served with restraining orders requiring them to keep away from their wives.

The remaining 244 will be free to resume living with their families.

The Israel Prison Service said it contacted the victims, mostly women, in recent weeks to warn them of the impending releases.

Senior Prison Service officials said most of the freed prisoners hadn’t yet completed a rehabilitation program – some because of the early release, some because the programs available at their prison weren’t suitable, and some because they didn’t want to undergo rehabilitation.

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But one senior official, Ayala Haim, said that every released prisoner was evaluated by a special Prison Service committee which examined how dangerous he was and what rehabilitation he had undergone, and if a prisoner was considered dangerous, his local police and welfare department were informed.

“In conversations with the women, we suggested that they go to court to get a protection order if they felt endangered,” she continued, adding that while state agencies should monitor the situation, women could also be proactive and go to the police.

She said the recidivism rate for all released prisoners stands at about 40 percent.

Altogether, 970 prisoners were paroled on Thursday due to a law enacted two months ago that granted early release to anyone sentenced to four years or less, with the exception of those convicted of terrorism-related offenses. The law was passed mainly to relieve prison overcrowding that the High Court of Justice had ruled unconstitutional.

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Relatives of many of the released prisoners awaited them eagerly Thursday morning outside the Ma’asiyahu and Ayalon prisons. But for prisoners who had nobody waiting for them, getting home was a bit more complicated.

Khaled, who had been convicted of breaking into a car, asked passersby outside Ma’asiyahu to help him order a taxi to Taibeh. Igor, convicted of drug offenses, came out in flip-flops and socks holding two plastic bags full of clothes – all he owned in jail. He said he was trying to hitchhike to Netanya.

The Prison Service said it gave needy prisoners vouchers for public transportation. But at bus stops near Ayalon Prison, the released prisoners seemed lost and asked passersby to take them to the central bus station.

Though the prisoners were naturally happy to be out of jail, some unexpected arguments erupted. Ezra, a 60-year-old who had served all but 10 days of a one-year sentence for using drugs, got into a fight with an 80-year-old man convicted of sex crimes while waiting at the bus stop.

“It’s a disgrace that someone like him should get out early,” Ezra said. “I told him so to his face. I wouldn’t have minded sitting there for another few months just so that sex offenders wouldn’t be released early. They’re worse than Hamas terrorists. Terrorists murder your body, but sex offenders like him murder your soul.”

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