Israel Supreme Court bans for-profit prisons

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] banned privately-run prisons on Thursday, ruling [opinion, in Hebrew] 8-1 that they violate prisoners' fundamental rights and introduce an element of profit into the prison system. The decision followed a 2005 lawsuit brought by the Academic College of Law's Human Rights Department against Israel's Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Security, the Knesset [official websites, in Hebrew], and prison operator ALA Management. Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch wrote:


The arrangement lays the foundation for the transfer of basic law enforcement and imprisonment powers of the state to a private corporation that operates with the aim of making a profit. This transfer of these powers infringes the constitutional rights to personal freedom and human dignity rooted in Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom.

The case stemmed from the Knesset's 2004 adoption of Amendment 28 [text, in Hebrew] to Israel's Prison's Ordinance, which authorized the construction of a privately-run prison. In the lawsuit, the petitioners alleged that the transferring of prison powers to a private company violated prisoners' fundamental human rights, and that private organizations, working to maximize profit, might seek to reduce costs by skimping on prison facilities and paying guards poorly, further undermining those rights. The government of Israel contended that Amendment 28 envisaged the creation of only one private prison as a pilot project based a model from England, and said the rights of the prisoners at the private prison, like the rights of all other prisoners in Israel, remained dually protected by the law itself and administrative checks. The construction of the private prison, near Be'er Sheva, has already been completed [Haaretz report] and the Israeli government is expected to have to pay hundreds of millions of shekels in compensation to the construction company. The US, UK and Australia all have privately-run prisons.

 

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