President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced a program Monday allowing those serving time in prison to request a presidential pardon under certain conditions. The pardons are being issued to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary next month.
The state will consider pardoning prisoners who have served at least a third of their sentences and who were sentenced to no more than two years in prison and for whom this is their first time in jail. Pardons will also be considered for prisoners who are at least 70 or are seriously ill. The program will also provide for the revocation of fines for the elderly and the expunging of soldiers’ criminal records for crimes committed before they entered the army.
There are 3,000 prisoners in Israeli jails who are being incarcerated for the first time and who have been sentenced to no more than two years. They represent less than a quarter of the country’s prison population. Prisoners requesting a pardon on grounds of poor health will be able to do so during a six-month period beginning on Independence Day, April 19.
No reduction in sentences will be offered to those convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual offenses or security-related offenses or for prisoners sentenced by military courts. Requests for pardons will be reviewed by the president’s office as well as the Justice Ministry, which will consider the risk posed by the prisoners, their rehabilitation and the position taken by their victims to their early release. In addition, the two offices and the Israeli army will jointly consider requests from soldiers for expunging of criminal records for offenses committed before they entered the army.
“The character of a society is judged no less by how it views its prisoners and convicts as an inseparable component of its identity,” Rivlin said. “I would like to view the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel as an opportunity to extend a long arm, a helping hand, an opportunity to stop, examine and look at those who perhaps we don’t look at sufficiently during routine times.”