Violence by Guards, Decrepit Conditions at Israeli Women’s Prison

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The Neve Tirza women's prison.
The Neve Tirza women's prison.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

An inspection visit by the Israel Bar Association at the Neve Tirza women’s prison in August has revealed major flaws in the prison, including unacceptable physical conditions, misuse of solitary confinement and violence against prisoners.

Among the cases found by the bar association’s representative, attorney Liran Silberman, who visited the prison on August 23, is that of a wheelchair-using prisoner who is serving her 18th year of a 20-year sentence.

The wing housing the prisoner is on the second floor with no elevator. The prisoner cannot leave the wing except by crawling down the stairs, and her cell is too small for a wheelchair to turn around. Neve Tirza has a wheelchair accessible cell, but if the prisoner moves into it, she will be separated from the other prisoners.

Silberman found that Neve Tirza’s solitary confinement wing unfit for human habitation. The cells are so small that an average-sized person cannot turn around in them. The wing is bug-infested and without air-conditioning or working fans. The prisons service said renovation of the wing would be “examined” among its projects for 2017.

One prisoner told Silberman she has been in solitary confinement for a year and 10 months. The law states that a prisoner must not remain in solitary for more than six months without court approval, which is lacking in this case. Neve Tirza responded the woman was not actually housed in a solitary confinement wing and so no court approval was needed.

When Silberman noticed bruises on the wrists of one of the prisoners, who is serving a sentence for traffic violations, he asked her about them but she declined to tell him what had happened. Other prisoners told him she had been beaten and dragged into solitary confinement.

The Israel Prisons Service rejected the allegations in the Israel Bar Association’s report. With regard to the wheelchair-bound prisoner, the prison service said Neve Tirza has an accessible cell, including toilet and shower, and that the prisoner was offered the possibility of moving to it, but had refused. With regard to the prisoner who had bruises on her hands, the prison service said: “The prisoner cut her hand and required medical treatment at the clinic. The shift officer and sergeant came to the cell to take her to the clinic and she resisted and began to curse and go wild. She turned on the faucet and began to flood the cell with water. Because of her resistance she had to be removed from the cell by use of force.”

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