The Israeli Military Prison is a prison for guarding soldiers who committed crimes during their service. It is estimated that 15,000-18,000 Israeli soldiers (not to be confused with Palestinian detainees) go through an Israeli military prison or detention center every year.
The need to create prisons in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) arose as the soldiers' discipline deteriorated over the course of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. At first, detention centers were built in the infantry brigades' bases under the auspices of the Manpower Directorate.
The prison sector of the Israeli Military Police was founded in June 1948. It was originally called Military Police Prisons (Hebrew: ), under a Prisons Officer. The sector was slated to include military prisons under the command of the military police, as well as brigade detention centers, for light prisoners, subordinate to the respective brigades. The first Israeli military prison was built on the ruins of al-Shaykh Muwannis (now North Tel Aviv), under Captain Yoel Caspi. Immediately smaller prisons were erected in Acre, Jaffa and Jerusalem.
The facilities were deemed temporary, and two months later Prison Four was founded in Tzrifin. A prison for female soldiers was conceptualized in March 1949 and founded near Nahalal in 1952 as Prison 400, under Lieutenant Elihava Gerchuk. The year 1952 also saw the approval of another military prison (Prison Six), due to the deteriorating conditions of Prison Four. Prison Six was conceptualized and originally commanded by Major Yaakov Markovitz, after he was taken under the wing of then-chief military police officer, Yosef Pressman. A jailor course was also founded to teach jailors to deal with prisoners.
In 1955, detailed regulations for the prison sector were published, which introduced a new set of orders and ideals for the sector. The main objective of the system was changed from the British idea of seeking to dissuade prisoners from returning, to a new idea of rehabilitation. The orders defined the permissible chores for prisoners, maximum work hours, punishments and basic conditions. In 1976, the new chief military police officer, Benjamin Inbar, took the rehabilitation to a new level by formulating a set of orders which clarified that the military prisons were meant to serve the IDF as a whole, not just the courts and commanders that handed down sentences. Inbar strove to improve relations between prisoners and jailors, and introduced new activities in the prisons. More attention was paid to where each prisoner would be put, and various prisoner types were clearly defined. As part of this trend, Prison Seven was built in April 1980 in the Ktzi'ot base to hold light prisoners with no criminal record.
As the need arose to guard prisoners of war (POW), POW camps were built in the Prison Six area and Nitzanim. A minor additional camp was built in Damun Prison for high-ranking enemy officers. Today, the Atlit camp is reserved for high-ranking enemy officers.
Over the years, prisoners saw many improvements in their living and social conditions in military prison. Chief Military Police Officer Raphael Vardi brought education to military prisons in 1960, as well as social workers (as of 2007, all military prisons have a staff of psychologists, teachers, and other social workers). In 1994, Nir-Am Goldbroom, soon to be chief MP officer, opened the doors of Prisons Four and Six to the media, which significantly improved conditions following numerous complaints from civilians (and reduced the number of escapees to zero, from 14 in 1990). Following the Prison Six rebellion of 1997, the concept of incarceration in the IDF was re-evaluated, which further improved conditions in all prisons.
Below are the statistics for the two main prisons for Israeli soldiers (Prison Four and Prison Six)
Following are percentages, in the year 2005, of IDF prisoners (not including Palestinians), sorted by the crime they committed. In 2006, the amount of AWOLs comprised 69% of the crimes.
|Crime||% of prisoners|
|Illegal use of weapons||1%|
|Engagement||Amount of POWs|
|Yom Kippur War||8,038|
|Operation Peace for Galilee||Most POWs held inside Lebanon|
|2006 Lebanon War||13|
Prison Four (a.k.a. Confinement Base 394) is the largest Israeli military prison, located in Tzrifin. Every soldier who is not an officer or military policeman, and who does not serve in the Northern Command, goes to Prison Four.
Prison Six (a.k.a. Confinement Base 396) is a smaller prison, located near Atlit and the Oren Junction. Soldiers from the Northern Command, as well as officers, senior NCOs, civilians with army contracts and most military policemen, go to Prison Six.
In all, there are ten detention centers operated by the IDF, located in the various military police bases, divided into the three regional commands (northern, central, southern). These detention centers are considered part of the law enforcement sector and are under the command of their respective base commanders.
Each command has its command detention center (Hebrew: ? ma'atsar pikudi), which has a larger capacity and workforce, and serves as the logistical center for the other detention centers in the same command.
Detention centers contain prisoners serving very light sentences (below 28 days) and detainees awaiting trial before they are moved to either Prison Four or Prison Six.
The Northern Command, a.k.a. command unit 390, contains detention centers in Military Police Haifa (Camp Jalame), Military Police HaAmakim and Military Police Golan Heights (Camp Filon). These are all considered minor detention centers (MP Haifa being the command center).
The Central Command, a.k.a. command unit 391, contains detention centers in Military Police Jerusalem (Camp Anatot), Military Police HaSharon (Camp Gur), Military Police Dan (Camp Rabin) and Military Police Yoav (Camp Bar-Lev). Military Police Jerusalem is the command center and has a capacity for 32 prisoners.
The Southern Command, a.k.a. command unit 392, contains detention centers in Military Police Beersheba (Camp Nathan), Military Police Urim and Military Police Eilat. Military Police Beersheba is the command center, has a capacity for 32 prisoners, and receives more prisoners than any other detention center.
Before a prisoner is taken in, they undergo an absorption procedure, similar to other prisons worldwide. In July 2009, biometric checks also entered this procedure. This is also used to check prisoners who are transferred or escorted to a courthouse.
The main types of prisoners in Israeli military jails are:
Because all military prisoners in Israel, excluding Palestinian detainees (who have a different set of rights/responsibilities, derived from the Third Geneva Convention) are subject to IDF law, they receive the same rights and responsibilities as all other IDF soldiers, for example, the right to three meals per day, or the responsibility of following all orders from superiors (except those deemed clearly illegal). However, being prisoners, they have a set of additional rights and responsibilities which depend on the status of the prisoner, the length of their sentence, etc. Prisoners also have a set of rights (N.B.: in Anglophone usage, these are more commonly termed privileges instead of rights) that can be taken away by their superiors for bad behavior.
The following rights (privileges) can be revoked on the authority of either a qualified officer (company or prison commander), or on the basis of certain intelligence against the prisoner.
All Israeli military prisons are guarded by the Military Police Corps. Guards, called prisoner instructors (Hebrew abbreviation?"? madak) are responsible for guiding the prisoners through their daily schedules.
Every madak is also considered an IDF instructor and commander. However, plans are underway to change this, as ordered by Chief Military Police Officer Brigadier General Ronny Benny. As of August 2007, madakim are no longer considered IDF instructors, but have been given a unique aiguillette and pin.