A Blow to Privatization in Israel (and Perhaps Beyond)

A Blow to Privatization in Israel (and Perhaps Beyond)

A Blow to Privatization in Israel (and Perhaps Beyond)

In an opinion rightly hailed as a "bombshell" in Haaretz, Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Benisch did not deny that privatizing prisons might potentially save money. She simply determined that incarceration infringes on such fundamental liberties that only the state should carry out this function, not least since the alternative is to turn prisoners into a means of extracting profit.

Facebook
Twitter
Email
Flipboard
Pocket

Is there something inherently wrong with entrusting a private company to run a prison? Might this even be unconstitutional? As far as I’m aware, no court in Europe or the United States has entertained this question. When and if one does, there will now be a precedent to cite: a potentially historic 8-1 ruling just handed down by the Supreme Court in Israel that overturned a 2004 Knesset amendment permitting the establishment of such prisons.

In an opinion rightly hailed as a "bombshell" in Haaretz, Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Benisch did not deny that privatizing prisons might potentially save money. She simply determined that incarceration infringes on such fundamental liberties that only the state should carry out this function, not least since the alternative is to turn prisoners into a means of extracting profit. "Economic efficiency is not a supreme value, when we are dealing with basic and important rights for which the state has responsibility," ruled Benisch.

The ruling is not without its ironies, among them the fact that Israel doesn’t actually have a written constitution, only a set of Basic Laws that are supposed to serve as a guideline for legal rulings. There is also the fact that, as Yonatan Preminger noted in this fine article in the magazine Challenge a year ago, the conditions in Israel’s state-run prisons have often been abysmal, with prisoners and security detainees (mainly Palestinians) crowded into cramped, squalid cells bereft of adequate beds and toilet facilities.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that moves the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories to readers like you.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy
x