Prison Officials Wary of Katsav Suicide Behind Bars

Professionals have expressed concern that the fall in stature that Katsav will have suffered from president of Israel to prisoner may motivate him to harm himself.

Prison Service officials are reportedly worried former President Moshe Katsav may try to take his own life during the prison term he is expected to receive at his sentencing today. Katsav was convicted late last year on charges of rape and other sexual offenses.

The prison service has made provisions to receive Katsav, which will initially include a medical and psychological exam.

Moshe Katsav - Archive - 2007.
Limor Edrey / Archive

Prison Service officials have major concerns over the possibility that the former president will attempt to commit suicide in jail. Unlike "white-collar" offenses committed by other former cabinet ministers and other public officials currently serving jail time, Katsav's rape conviction isn't expected to be easily forgiven in the slammer.

Professionals have expressed concern that the fall in stature that Katsav will have suffered from president of Israel to prisoner may motivate him to harm himself.

He is expected to begin serving his sentence in a prison cell under 24-hour surveillance, outfitted with security cameras. He will have bathroom facilities in his cell, which will feature a glass wall so that he can be monitored uninterruptedly. The lower portion of the glass will be opaque, however, to accord him some privacy.

The cell is to be situated near a guard station to enable the security staff to act quickly in the event of any untoward activity. Katsav will be visited more frequently than most other prisoners by prison staff, who still recall the case of entertainer Dudu Topaz, who committed suicide in jail in 2009, hanging himself with the cord from an electric kettle.

A number of other prisoners filed requests for presidential pardons with Katsav while he was president. Most requests by major criminal figures were declined, and there is concern that a disappointed fellow prisoner may try to seek revenge on Katsav. He could also be the target of hostile anti-Israel elements in jail due to his former official status.

Katsav is thought likely to serve his sentence at the Ma'asiyahu prison in Ramle, where former cabinet minister Shlomo Benizri is also serving time. He has the option, however, of asking to go to another location and such a request would be considered. Former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson is serving time at the Hermon prison in the north. Rather than being surrounded by walls, that facility has a perimeter fence and other security installations.

Katsav will also have the opportunity to be housed in a religious prison wing, where prisoners study Torah during the day. He will only have a cellmate when prison staff is satisfied that the situation would permit it, although the staff is expected to do so as soon as it is feasible in an effort to assure his wellbeing.

Due to the sensitivity of the incarceration of a former president, the cellmate will undergo extensive diagnostic testing and other checks before being transferred to Katsav's cell.

Over the years of his anticipated incarceration, Katsav's prison conditions are expected to improve, granted he signs a declaration expressing remorse for his actions. He has not at this point admitted to the charges for which he was convicted, however.

If he persists in that stance, his conditions will not substantially improve and the time he is to serve will not be curtailed. In any event, his regular routine will be the same as other prisoners with respect to wake-up time, roll call and meals.