Israel's Prison Chief Warned She May Be Found Guilty for Gilboa Jailbreak

The committee probing the Gilboa prison break last year may take steps against Perry if it concludes the commissioner failed in the course of her work to prevent escape from prison facilities

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Prison chief Katy Perry testifying at a committee meeting in the Knesset this week.
Prison chief Katy Perry testifying at a committee meeting in the Knesset this week. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry and three senior Prison Service officers were warned on Thursday by the committee probing the Gilboa Prison break they may be found responsible for the failure.

Perry may now ask to appear before the committee and present her arguments in a bid to prevent being found responsible and to avoid steps against her.

Gilboa warden Freddy Ben-Sheetrit, Deputy Commissioner Moni Bitan and Northern District Commander Arik Yaakov also received warning letters from the committee. However, the panel decided not to sent a warning to the Prison Service’s intelligence chief, Regev Dahruj, who assumed responsibility for the lack of intelligence about the escaping prisoners’ tunnel-digging.

The committee said that “apparent deficiencies were exposed in the Prison Service’s activity regarding prevention of escapes from prisons in general and the escape of the security prisoners from Gilboa Prison on September 6, 2021.”

It also said “the committee decided to send warnings to officers who have a comprehensive responsibility for several areas in which flaws have been apparently found.”

The panel said “the warning means each of those warned may be harmed by the committee’s conclusions and recommendations.”

However, the committee said it hasn’t yet decided on its final conclusions and recommendations.

The panel may take steps against Perry if it concludes the commissioner failed in the course of her work to prevent escape from prison facilities. The committee may also act against her if it finds she didn’t adjust the Prison Service’s activity to prevent prisoner escapes following accumulated intelligence.

Perry may also be deemed responsible for the break if the panel concludes she failed to properly inspect senior staff’s actions to prevent prison breaks.

The Prison Service said in response that “the commissioner respects the committee’s decision.” It also said Perry would present to the committee material showing her “vigorous and strenuous activity to bridge over the Prison Service’s ongoing gaps and failures that enabled the prisoners’ escape.”

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said it was “important to remember that the Gilboa Prison break also exposed serious and dangerous government neglect of many years.”

At the beginning of the month, Perry testified that former senior Prison Service officers had testified against her in a bid to take revenge on her and sully her reputation. Perry referred to three former top Prison Service officers who said she had appointed inexperienced officers, a move that ultimately led to the escape incident. She also appointed cronies, they said.

“This is a bunch of embittered people who wanted to settle accounts with me in the media,” Perry said.

One of the main arguments against Perry was her appointment of Intelligence Division head Regev Dahrouj, who had no prior intelligence experience, as well as two inexperienced department heads beneath him. “Today we know that the digging [of tunnels by the prisoners] began in December. Regev and his men were appointed in March, April and May, and not immediately. Therefore to say Regev’s term is fully responsible and not to look back is wrong and unfair,” Perry said in her testimony.

“My two other appointments were people with past intelligence experience. Regev led to a change of course in intelligence ... he has a broad, strategic view.”

However, in his testimony to the panel Dahrouj took responsibility for the lack of intelligence on the escape tunnel.

In January, Perry said Ben-Sheetrit was responsible for placing two of the prisoners, who were classified as having a high risk of escape, in the same cell. She said she’d wanted to dismiss Ben Shitrit after the incident.

Panel head Judge (ret.) Menachem Finkelstein criticized Perry’s treatment of Ben-Sheetrit and said, “maybe you understood it was either you or him.”

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