Scathing report slams Israel Prison Service 'failures' in 2021 Gilboa jailbreak
An Israeli government report commissioned to look into the 2021 Gilboa Prison jailbreak has slammed the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) for its "failures and deficiencies" in handling prisoners.
The 400-page report, handed over to far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, detailed the service’s shortcomings in a number of areas including intelligence, prisoner transfers, and treatment according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
The findings concluded that Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry failed to strike "the required balance between taking long-term steps and the immediate detection of deficiencies and dealing with them".
In September 2021, six Palestinian detainees, including activist Zakaria Zubeidi escaped from the notorious high-security prison in northern Israel through a tunnel under a sink in a cell.
The Palestinians’ escape was met with praise from Palestinians and their supporters, who likened the breakout to the famed US television show 'Prison Break'.
The escape triggered a large-scale Israeli manhunt with all six escapees eventually recaptured. Some of them were tortured by Israeli authorities.
The jailbreak, which took place nine months into Perry’s tenure at the IPS, was seen was one of Israel’s "largest failures" in the service's history, Haaretz reported. It also demonstrated "a failure to learn lessons" from previous escape attempts, The Times of Israel added.
Despite criticising Perry, the committee did not recommend her dismissal, saying that "many flaws were already present" in the IPS before she started at her post.
Perry said she hadn’t had "enough time" to deal with the service’s problems during the period.
The report advised that Israeli Prisons Northern District Commander Arik Yaakov should be dismissed from his role and hold no future positions of command in the service.
The former Gilboa Prison warden, Freddie Ben Sheetrit, had already been dismissed due to his "unsuitability to serve" in the prison. Both had demonstrated "inadequacies" at the highest level.
The report also shed light on the "pimping of female guards", The Times of Israel reported, in reference to the sexual assault that female employees were subjected to at Gilboa Prison. The assaults reportedly took place with the "implicit knowledge" of senior prison officials.
The committee also criticised former Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for refusing to dismiss the prison's former intelligence officer Rani Basha, despite evidence that the he "acted inappropriately" concerning the case.
The commission urged lawmakers to take steps to develop the IPS by allocating more funds to invest in personnel, train more guards, and make use of advanced technology.
Israeli prisons have long been criticised for their treatment of Palestinian detainees, where authorities carry out "demeaning policies" such as banning them from receiving money, food or clothes from families.
Earlier this year, Israeli prisons said they will only allow Palestinian prisoners to take showers for less than four minutes, sparking outrage in the West Bank.
Palestinian prisoners have carried out hunger strikes protesting their conditions.