September 2022

A selection of news stories from around the world looking at developments in Israeli, Mexican and Irish prisons.


Overcrowding as Israel’s prison population reaches 15,000

The number of detainees and prisoners in Israeli detention facilities rose by almost 900 between February and May 2022, to approximately 15,000. The spike is mainly due to increased arrests for weapons offences in the Arab community as well as a decline in early releases after the Knesset stiffened conditions for such release.

The increase in prison population will place the state even further from compliance with a 2017 High Court ruling, which called on the state to meet the goal of providing minimum living space for prisoners by the end of the year.

In order to meet the High Court requirement by the end of 2022, there should be 13,600 inmates in prison service facilities. However, the number has jumped from about 14,000 prisoners in February to almost 15,000 in May.


Chief Justice’s visit with inmates highlights the vices of preventative prison

Criminal suspects in Mexico can spend as long as 10 to 15 years in prison awaiting trial, but it is not a practice that has the support of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In fact, Arturo Zaldívar wants to see change.

Zaldívar has spoken out before against the frequency with which accused criminals are sent to prison for pre-trial detention, where they often languish for years without being convicted of any crime. Zaldívar said pre-trial detention should be the exception rather than the rule, used when the accused is a flight risk or there is a danger that evidence will be destroyed or witnesses’ safety will be placed at risk.

His remarks came after he visited the Santa Martha Acatitla women’s prison in the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa.

Zaldívar, the first sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice to visit a prison, met with some 220 inmates, among whom was former cabinet minister Rosario Robles, who is accused of involvement in a government embezzlement scheme known as the “Master Fraud” but is yet to face trial almost three years after she was jailed.

The Chief Justice told a press conference that between 60% and 70% of prisoners at Santa Martha Acatitla haven’t been convicted of the crimes of which they are accused. “I confirmed the vices of the Mexican criminal system that I’ve been pointing out for a long time,” Zaldívar said of his visit.


Pop-up prison restaurant aiming to train inmates as chefs and waitstaff in bid to solve hospitality staffing crisis

A special pop-up restaurant, ‘The Open Door’, was launched in Cork Prison in a bid to offer inmates a path back into the workforce as well as to help tackle the chronic 40,000 jobs shortage within Ireland’s strategic hospitality sector. The restaurant concept involved six prisoners undertaking an eight week training course in special culinary and hospitality skills. Central to the concept was giving prisoners the skills needed for employment in the hospitality sector - but also offering them a glimpse of ‘live’ restaurant operations.

It is hoped the pilot programme will be adopted by other Irish prisons. Cork Prison Governor Peter O’Brien said it was a very exciting initiative. “This project will enhance the rehabilitative and employment options for all those who work and train here in the years to come,” he said.

The project was undertaken by the Irish Prison Service in co-operation with the Department of Tourism & Hospitality at Munster Technological University (MTU), the Irish Association for the Social Inclusion of Offenders (IASIO) and the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB).

The aim is to encourage inmates nearing release to pursue further training, education and employment opportunities within the community.