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Comptroller: Prosecution, police process to correct investigation abuses is deficient

CM 18/05/2021

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State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman on Tuesday published his annual report, including sections criticizing the prosecution, the police and the Israel Prisons Service (IPS).
Regarding the prosecution and the police, Englman focused on the absence of a proper process to correct investigatory abuses.
This issue could be hotter than usual given the ongoing public war between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s prosecutorial apparatus.
The report especially focused on cases where a prosecutor works hand-in-hand with police staff at the investigation stage.
This is in contrast to the general rule that police carry out investigations without prosecutorial interference and then the prosecutors separately evaluate whether they add up to an indictment.
Despite the general rule, there have always been complex cases requiring prosecutorial supervision and approval or nixing of special investigative activities.
In the Netanyahu probes, not only were prosecutors involved with guiding the police investigation, but Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit himself was involved in approving or nixing unusual moves being used to get witnesses to talk or agree to immunity deals for turning on the prime minister.

The report says that, “in court decisions which revealed unusual failures in the investigatory process in parallel to the legal proceedings, law enforcement and prosecution officials were asked to learn lessons.”
However, the comptroller found that, “the process for learning lessons in the prosecution was never completed because of the opposition of the Prosecutors Union and that generally the prosecution’s district offices refrain from a process of learning lessons” to correct such failures.
Englman did specifically credit the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office and the Jerusalem Police District Office for coordinating and finalizing a process for when a prosecutor will accompany the police probe itself.
According to the new joint directive, the split of authority and roles between the prosecution and the police is now better defined than in the past when the mix between the two bodies was more amorphous.  
The comptroller recommended that Mandelblit spread the directives and coordination in Jerusalem to the rest of the prosecution and police so that it was easier to catch future abuses and prosecutorial discretion was more circumscribed.
Englman said that the prosecution and the police needed to be extra careful about the rights of defendants in cases where the separation of powers could be implicated.
Further, he stated that accompanying prosecutors must keep a standard record of their activities in such cases, so that their conduct can be reviewed afterward if there are any allegations of abuse of power.
In the Netanyahu case, there is a major controversy about whether state’s witness Nir Hefetz was coerced to turn against the prime minister and about the sufficiency of record keeping of some unofficial and unrecorded interactions Hefetz had while in custody.
Regarding rehabilitation of prisoners by the IPS, around 70% of prisoners received no treatment, said the comptroller.
Part of the issue, the report noted, is that only certain categories of prisoners are defined as requiring or specially entitled to treatment, whereas other categories of prisoners must initiate a request for this assistance on their own.
Even among those defined as requiring treatment, only 43% received this treatment during the 2017-2019 reviewed by the comptroller.
An exception was prisoners convicted of sexual crimes who received rehabilitation treatment in higher numbers.
In the bigger picture, 20,802 prisoners, making up 64% of the population, were given administrative releases between 2016-2020, said the report.
None of these prisoners, according to the report, were required to get rehabilitative treatment despite the fact that their release was not for good behavior or their being less dangerous.
Rather, in spite of potentially still posing a danger, they were released because the prison system exceeded its physical capacity and had to choose to release certain prisoners in order to make room for new ones.
In the area of domestic violence crimes, 37% of prisoners received zero rehabilitative treatment as of mid-2020 statistics, the report stated.
This was despite the fact that domestic violence offenders are some of the most likely repeat offenders after their release from prison.  
In addition, the report said that of prisoners given short sentences, only 1.3% in 2018 and 1.8% in 2019 took part in any rehabilitation or preparation for release programs.
Englman said this was part of a problematic IPS conception that they could only provide resources to long-term prisoners, whereas often short-term prisoners who might be given preventative treatment could avoid them becoming harder-core offenders.
Finally, he criticized the IPS for failing to fulfill a government order from 2012 to standardize the processes for rehabilitative treatment.
The state prosecution said that it, “welcomed the criticism which would help it to improve and become more efficient. The prosecution will study the report and its recommendations in-depth,” while adding that it already has a process in place to fix some of the issues which the comptroller flagged for it earlier during communications.
Further, the prosecution said that a good deal of the issue would need to be addressed by the police, but said it was ready to address its role.
The police had not responded at press time.
Though the IPS praised the comptroller for drawing attention to the issue of rehabilitating prisoners, it strenuously disagreed with most of his main analytical points.
Disregarding the statistic of 57% of prisoners not receiving rehabilitative treatment, the IPS said that the issue and each individual prisoner must be viewed holistically, not analyzed all in the same boat.
For example, the IPS doubled down against Englman’s criticism that it does not treat short-term prisoners.
Rather, the IPS said that it provides group lectures for such prisoners taking into account that certain treatments can only succeed if undertaken over a long-term period.
Accordingly, the IPS said it is not dismissing short-term prisoner needs as much as it is respecting professional methodology for different kinds of treatment.
The IPS implied that this issue especially applied to domestic violence prisoners, many of whom are given short sentences.
In other words, the IPS blamed this issue on the court system or the legislature for giving lenient sentences to domestic violence offenders which left insufficient time for serious rehabilitative treatment.
Moreover, the IPS said it provides other channels to help treat short-term prisoners, including paper hand-outs and sessions on its prison-wide radio program.
Finally, the IPS said that it standardized some of its rehabilitative regulations in 2016 and forwarded a draft for the rest to the Justice Ministry in 2020 and is waiting for a response.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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