Israel Advances Bill to Reduce Prison Overcrowding That Excludes Security Prisoners

The approved version excludes security prisoners – those who were convicted in military courts in the territories or for security offenses. The bill now goes to the Knesset for its second and third readings.

File photo: A prisoner in Israel's Rimonim Prison
Moti Milrod

The Knesset Interior Committee advanced a bill on Sunday that provides for the early release of certain prisoners to reduce prison overcrowding, in response to a High Court of Justice ruling on the issue.

The approved version excludes security prisoners – those who were convicted in military courts in the territories or for security offenses. The bill now goes to the Knesset for its second and third readings.

The bill was reworded after Haaretz reported that the previous version provided for the release of 300 security prisoners a few months before their sentences were to end.

The bill tries to resolve the overcrowding in Israel’s prisons, after the High Court ruled that each prisoner must have at least three square meters of living space. In some prisons the inmates are crowded into 2.2 square meters per person.

Excluding the security prisoners from these early releases means that overcrowding in some of the security wings in the prisons will remain, and in some cases could get even worse. This is because the new bill also cancels the option of security prisoners receiving an administrative release a few weeks early, like other prisoners.

At the same time, the final version does not block the early release of prisoners convicted of transporting terrorists, because in many cases they were not aware of their passengers’ intentions and as a result they were convicted of causing death by negligence, not of a security offense.

The bill is expected to be voted on shortly and go into effect December 20, when some 750 prisoners are expected to be released.