Demand: Establish new Torah halfway house

MK Yisrael Eichler says previous halfway house serving prisoners burned down, with no similar framework to rehabilitate prisoners.

Mordechai Sones ,


MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) in the Finance Committee today raised the "vital need" for funding a Torah halfway house, in Hebrew called a "hostel", to rehabilitate prisoners who wish to be treated in this framework.

He says the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority does a very important job, but "there's one serious thing happening there: Unfortunately the only Torah hostel was burned down a few years ago and since then a new one hasn't been built."

According to data from the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority, about 30 percent of rehabilitated prisoners return to prison, while only 12 percent rehabilitated in the Torah framework pass again through prison gates, proving the Torah rehabilitation service's indispensability.

"In the past the Welfare Committee discussed the matter of an Arab hostel in Nazareth that was slated to be closed, and the Welfare Committee insisted it not be closed, and that's what happened. Just as I demanded then, I again ask today that the Jewish-Torah hostel should return to function," Eichler said.

Eichler explained the importance of hostels for prisoner rehabilitation can not be exaggerated as they are charged with rehabilitating the prisoner and returning him to the straight path.

"The President and the Justice Ministry are currently talking about the option of amnesty for rehabilitated prisoners, but those who don't undergo rehabilitation don't meet the criteria for amnesty," he said.

In the course of the committee's discussion on the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority's Program for Support and Assistance of Prisoners' Children and their Families, it emerged that according to data from the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority, children are severely harmed when one of their parents is in prison, they are considered at-risk, and there is concern that they will become lawbreakers themselves.

In light of this, the Authority notes that treatment for the prisoner's wife and children is a support factor and helps the family become a support factor in the prisoner's rehabilitation and sometimes even increases his motivation for rehabilitation.

Although the Rehabilitation Authority runs a mentoring project for prisoner's children, because of budgetary constraints it provides a solution for a small number of prisoner's children, and this response itself is very limited.

Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority Director Aryeh Bibi said "there is a problem with the families of the prisoners, the women, and the children. Every year thousands of prisoners are released, and society and the family don't absorb them. Funds are designated in this direction for the family to support the prisoner - and that the children get what they need to get to handle the situation.

"Every year about 6,500 prisoners are released. Revolving door recidivists make up about 28 percent of them, while those without rehabilitation programs return about 50 percent. A person in jail costs about NIS 150,000 a year to the State of Israel. Our current budget is about NIS 38 million, and we need the budget to operate the family programs."

Mandi, wife of a former prisoner who runs an aid organization for prisoners' families said, "My husband's been in jail for about a year and eight months and now I'm helping families and children. They don't know who to turn to, they have no one to consult with; some families have nothing to eat at home," she said. "The Authority does important work; volunteers came to us and helped the children very much, but it was for a period of only three months. The children became connected to therapists and then it was stopped because they were only volunteers. Untreated children may end up in jail."

Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni summed up the discussion, "Regarding budgets for wives and children of prisoners, I ask the Finance Ministry to reply within two weeks. If the answer leaves the existing situation and we can't take care of an humanitarian issue of the first order, I'll accept Miki Rosenthal's proposal to hold a meeting in Neve Tirza women's prison or another Prison Service facility. I'm not going to let this go.

"With regard to Torah rehabilitation, I ask the Authority to calculate a new route and disburse budgets to the Torah hostel. The municipality must take care of all the hostels, certainly the one that only 12 percent of its participants return to jail instead of double or more that number in other rehabilitation institutions. We'll request answers," Gafni said.