60 Percent of Sex Offenders in Israel Are Released From Prison Before Treatment, Report Shows

A state comptroller report reveals that despite a rise in sex crimes against minors, only seventy percent of the pedophilia cases are closed for lack of evidence

FILE Photo: Prisoners in Ayalon Prison in Israel, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Some 60 percent of the 1,389 sex offenders imprisoned in Israel in 2017 were not enrolled in any kind of therapy program and will be released into the community without treatment, according to the State Comptroller’s Report. The comptroller noted that therapy is not mandatory and the Israel Prison Service sets tough conditions for being accepted into a treatment program.

Thus, for example, the prison service requires that the prisoners express a desire for treatment and change; anybody who continues to deny the crime in prison is not eligible. In addition, prisoners who’ve been sentenced to two years or less are not eligible for treatment at all. As of July 2018, there are some 300 such prisoners. The therapy, which takes place in small groups, can last for a year and a half to two, so any prisoner serving a short term may not complete the course in any case. The prison service points out that various studies indicate that noncompletion of therapy boosts the probability of recidivism.

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The report criticizes the voluntary nature of the rehabilitation, saying that releasing such offenders without treatment undermines the public interest and that, “Simply completing a prison term does not attest to material change in the sex offender’s inner world and behavior.” The comptroller called on the prison service to “Develop innovative tools and new methods […] while encouraging and giving incentives for offenders to participate in relevant treatment programs.” He also called on legal, welfare and prison authorities to consider compulsory therapy for all sex offenders who are released from prison.

According to the report, courts have been issuing more monitoring orders for sex offenders who are released into the community. These orders forbid released offenders from spending time in certain places, with the monitoring carried out by the prison service’s Tzur unit. The unit was monitoring 1,256 people last year, a number that has been rising 10 percent a year. Seventy-three percent of those being monitored were pedophiles.

The Tzur unit reported that in 2016 there were 734 violations of these monitoring orders, and in 2017 there were 778 violations. In 2016, 60 indictments were filed for violating these orders and 28 people were convicted. In 2017 there were 79 indictments and 48 people were convicted.

The report also addressed the administration of the drug Decapeptyl, which weakens the sex drive. It was found that many offenders who asked for the drug were required to pay large sums for it, even though they are entitled to get it for free.

There has been a substantial rise in the number of police investigations of sex crimes against minors, with eight times the number of investigations launched in 2017 compared to 2010. According to the police, the cases opened between 2010 and May 2018 for sex offenses against children involved 9,900 victims, 48 percent of them under age 12.

Investigations don’t necessarily lead to indictments, however. Seventy percent of the pedophilia cases are closed for lack of evidence, although that’s better than the 83 percent closure rate for all sex offense cases. Of those cases that resulted in indictments, in 32 cases charges were filed more than two years after prosecutors got the cases; five of those indictments came after more than four years.

The report also deals with the treatment given to minor sex crime victims, who are entitled to free therapy for a year from the Social Affairs Ministry. The comptroller found that although in 2011 it was recommended to increase the number of treatment centers from 12 to 19, today there are only 13 treatment centers. Between 2015 and 2017, some 6,300 minors received such therapy, either at the centers or from private therapists funded by the ministry. Seventy percent of those treated were under age 12. According to the ministry’s national supervisor for sexual abuse of children and teens, a lack of manpower is preventing many children from being referred for treatment.

In 2011 it was decided to establish holistic assistance centers for minor sexual abuse victims, in which police, child investigators, social workers and physicians could expedite investigations by working in one place. The establishment of eight such centers, operated by nonprofits under ministry supervision, was completed only in 2017. The comptroller, moreover, found that only three of them had a child investigator permanently on staff.

“Professional documents by senior professionals in the Social Affairs Ministry, the police and the prosecution found that centers without full-time child investigators had difficult providing appropriate treatment to the children,” the report said. Not only were investigations delayed until a child investigator could be present, but those centers were more likely to have tension among the staff members that had a negative effect on the ability of the centers to provide quality care to victims.