Israel Prison Service

The Social Work and Rehabilitation Division (SWRD) of the Israel Prison Service (IPS) is responsible for the social-rehabilitative care of prisoners. The unit’s goals are as follows:

* To minimize the damage caused by imprisonment and to promote the mental and social welfare of prisoners during the period of their incarceration;
* To try to bring the prisoner to change his behavior patterns and way of life while in prison; * To prepare the prisoner for release by drawing up, together with him and community agencies, a realistic rehabilitation plan.

The needs of the prisoner, his family and the community to which he will return have brought about steadily broader and deeper links between the SWRD and community agencies, such as social work and rehabilitative services, criminal and religious courts, academic institutions and voluntary organizations active in spheres such as child welfare protection, the prevention of domestic violence and frug abuse, and prisoner rehabilitation.

SWRD Methods of Work

The two chief methods are those used by most professional psycho-social caring services – individual casework and group therapy.

Individual Casework

Every prisoner is delegated a social worker to see to his particular needs. The caseworker will make use of various techniques – dynamic, behavioral, cognitive and others. The social worker must meet with the prisoner at least three times during his imprisonment at its beginning, before he begins his program of rehabilitation and near the time of his release. Above this minimum, the number of meetings will depend on the attitude, motivation and difficulties of the prisoner and the work load of the social worker.

Group Therapy

For some time now, social work agencies in Israel and other countries have made more and more use of group work since it is both effective and cost- effective. The groups operated by the SWRD reflect two parallel trends: * The growing societal and professional awareness of certain aspects of individual-family interaction; * The SWRD’s focussing on these psycho-social problems in as far as they affect the prisoner population. The main problems dealt with in this context are: Domestic violence, incest, sexual offenses, drug and alcohol abuse, mutual help between inmates, preparation for release, interpersonal communication, husband-wife-childre interrelationships.

Between 1990-94, the SWRD set up the followirig therapeutic groups:

Rehabilitation The Israel Prison Service’s rehabilitation programs form part of the process that prepares the prisoner for release and reintegration into thecommunity. With this aim in mind, rehabilitation services have been have been exparided in recent years to form a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Approach (CRA).

These services occupy a unique and important position within the IPS and substantial resources have been invested in them in terms of policy-making, planning, supervision and control and staff training. The guiding principle of ttle CRA is to permit those prisoners who are motivated to change their ways, and who meet IPS criteria, to gradually spend more time outside prison walls. According to ttie program designed for each individual prisoner, and under close supervision, they take up jobs or study courses, participate in casework or group therapy sessions and enrichment courses, all as far as possible in their home district.

Although the IPS would like to see as many prisoners as possible benefitting from the CRA, it is not easy to find those who can handle the pressures involved. The program demands considerable coping powers, non-involvement in illegal activities in the prison, being drug-free, etc.

Those who are selected enter into what we call a "schizophrenic" lifestyle, spending a large part of the day as civilians in a civilian life and returning in the evening to prison and all that that entails.

In the first stage, the prisoner goes out as one of a group escorted by a senior prison officer. If he satisfies the terms of such groups and performs well with no lapses, then he will transfer to an individual rehabilitation track, whereby he will go out to work or study alone and unescorted to cope by himself with the pressures of work or study. In the third stage, he will live in a hostel and spend each weekend on home leave with his family.

Group Rehabilitation Stage

A prisoner can begin to work/study outside the prison once he has completed a quarter of his sentence, has had at least two periods of home leave, does not have more than thirty months of his sentence left, and meets all the criteria listed above.

Individual Rehabilitation Stage

A prisoner can begin to work/study outside the prison on his own after he has had at least two periods of home leave, does not have more than eighteen months of his sentence left, and meets all the criteria listed above.

Hostel Stage

A prisoner can move to the hostel after he has done at least three months of the individual rehabilitation stage with no problems and does not have more than twelve months of his sentence left, if it was of up to five years, or not more than nine months left if it was for five years or more.

Multidisciplinary Committees

The following committees have been set up by the IPS, either alone or together with other ministries: * Senior Staff Committee (internal IPS) discusses cases of prisoners * Who have difficulty in adapting to and functioning in prison. Will recommend their transfer to a different type of prison or to a supervision facility. * Incest Committee

(inter-ministerial, with senior Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs staff) deals with all cases of prisoners sentenced for incest. Collaborates with the agencies caring for all family members to draw up a care plan for the prisoner. * Domestic Violence and Abuse Committee

(inter-ministerial) set up in 1994 on the same lines as the Incest Committee. * Extended Release Preparation Committee (inter-ministerial) discusses prisoners requiring supervision because of exceptional problems, for whom a post-release rehabilitation program needs to be drawn up.

Other Bodies Involved in the IPS Rehabilitation

* DAA (Drug-Addicts Anonymous) a scheme run by DAA members who have broken their addiction (some of them former prisoners). As volunteers, they visit every prison to spread the message that it is possible to break the addiction and to help prisoners who want to do so. This scheme has been one of the most successful of its kind in the world and many prisoners are eager to join, both during their imprisonment and after release. * Release Preparation Groups most such groups are run by representatives of the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority (a non-government organization) in collaboration with IPS workers. (See article on the PRA in this report.)

Educational Programs

Educational programs are designed to realize IPS policy that education can provide the prisoner with new coping resources, can enable him to make positive use of his time in prison, develop insight and recognize and reinforce dormant talents. Education can be an agent of change and its effects felt in ail aspects of the prisoner’s life.

Operational Principles

* Educational opportunities to the individual and the group are contingent on the IPS’s scale of priorities and on operational * constraints;
* Educational programs for prisoners must be planned so as to achieve objectives: this develops foresight and ability to plan one’s future;
* Educational activity will be based on pre-set criteria, probationary periods, supervision, monitoring and feedback, adapted to the nature and needs of the target group and the educational objectives;
* Educational activity will take account of the structure and needs of the facility;
* Staff will receive in-service training to equip them to give proper supervision and cope with day-today problems of educational administration, and for their personal enrichment;
* All educational staff in a facility will operate as a combined professional team;
* The educational system within a facility will be subordinate to the facility Director and will collaborate with all other facility services and functions.

Target Population: Participation in the educational system is entirely voluntary, a privilege earned by observing known rules.


The leading goals of the system are: * To help the individual satisfy legitimate, personal and unique needs; * To make positive and constructive use of the prisoner’s time by teaching him how to learn, imparting normative societal values, broadening his horizons, and fostering his creativity; * To provide the means of coping with the strains of daily home and prison life;

* To give guidance and instruction on vital practical issues;
* To raise self confidence by fostering and reinforcing the prisoner’s talents, to develop his sense of independence, initiative and responsibility by setting individual projects and giving encouragement and feedback.

System Design

The system operates in two modes:

* Formal education: comprising formal classes, from illiteracy level to secondary level, meeting five mornings per week for terms of three months at a time;
* Informal education: activity groups, workshops, projects, one-time educational activities on specific topics and special events for all prisoners in a facility.

Both modes combine to form an integrated whole and to realize the goals of the system.

The formal mode provides

* Formal, Ministry of Education-approved, educational qualifications at various levels, with graduates of all courses receiving Ministry of Education certificates detailing their achievements. The four main courses and levels are:
– Hebrew for illiterates
– Primary school-level Hebrew
– High school-level courses
– Academic (university) level courses

The informal mode provides:

* Groups teaching the national culture religious festivals and practices, key dates in national history, citizenship, the geography and history of modern Israel; * Workshops in communication with one’s children, education for parenthood, instructional playgroup; * Lectures from guest speakers on a range of subjects; * Information and guidance on topics of immediate practical importance such as drugs and AIDS, and health promotion; * Current affairs; * Sport and physical training; * Leisure time activities organized social evenings, group games, performances by guest artists; * Arts and crafts sculpture, painting, cinema, drama.

Participation in educational activity is open to all prisoners convicted on criminal changes, Jews and Arabs, aged 18 or over. In order to make classes homogeneous, candidates are examined to determine their schooling level. Average class size is 15-20, but lower, 12-15, for illiterate students. In 1993, 972 prisoners completed one or more formal education courses. In June 1994, in all prisons in Israel, 421 prisoners were participating in formal education courses.


The following projects have been set up within the IPS and have proven effective in promoting the rehabilitation of prisoners:

* Instructional Play-group
To develop prisoners’ understanding of and communication with their children.

* Supplementary Lessons from Students
To supplement and enrich the formal educational courses.

* Education for Parenthood (Adler Institute)
To teach the function and significance of parenting and provide the tools for constructive functioning as father and husband.

* Drama Groups
Stage live dramatic productions inside and outside prison walls.

* The Family Bond
A project based on and run by the team making the Educational " television program "The Family Bond." Designed to raise and debate problems occurring between family members.

* Critical Television Viewing

* Leaflets
The leaflet as a means of written self-expression for prisoners.

* Workshops
Subjects include: Sexual Education/ Drug Abuse/ Emotions/ Democracy/ Rotating Group Leadership/ Interpersonal Communications/ Moral Dilemmas/ Self Portrait/ Environmental Protection.

* Book Library
A range of books for self-education or entertainment are available for borrowing.

* Video Library
Educational videos are used to enliven classes and workshops.

Volunteers in Prisons

The IPS attaches great importance to the work of volunteers within prisons in support of the professional staff because, by creating links with the world outside the walls, they assist the rehabilitation of prisoners. The IPS makes great efforts to recruit volunteers from voluntary organizations and associations but also on an individual basis. Each volunteer is supervised by a professional working within the prison, an education officer, rabbi or social worker.

Today, some 400 volunteers are active in the prison system helping in different elements of formal and informal education activity. Some special activities are run entirely by volunteers.