Public Assessments and Public Attitudes toward Israel Prison Service 2013

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1 STATE OF ISRAEL Ministry of Public Security Bureau of the Chief Scientist Public Assessments and Public Attitudes toward Israel Prison Service 2013 DR. Shuki Hendeles Taldor This study reported herewith was conducted with the support of the Bureau of Chief Scientist at the Ministry of the Public Security. The Ministry of Public Security encourages independent research by providing professional and financial support. The contents, conclusions, recommendations, proposals and professional judgment expressed in this report are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the position and/or the official policy of the State of Israel and/or that of the Ministry of Public Security.

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3 I ABSTRACT During the months of July-September 2013, Taldor conducted a public opinion survey on interviewees related to public evaluations and opinions vis-à-vis the Israel Prison Service. The survey included 855 interviewees who were interviewed by telephone, of which 721 were Jewish - including 85 teenagers ages 14 to 18, and 134 Arabs - including 12 teenagers. The survey featured questions regarding the general evaluation of the Prison Service, its image and the image of the prison guard, the effectiveness of the Prison Service in handling various fields, their knowledge related to the Prison Service, their connection to the Prison Service, information sources related to the Prison Service and other subjects. Main Findings The public s knowledge and interest in the Prison Service and what happens in the Service, is limited. This is also expressed in the direct questions that focused on the interviewees evaluation regarding the degree to which they were familiar with the prisons: only 22% said they were familiar with the Service, and in terms of their interest in what happens in the prisons - only half of the interviewees said that they were interested in what happens at the prisons, which is also expressed in the high percentage of interviewees who did not answer some of the questions. For most questions related to the functioning and image of the prisons and prison guards, the rate of those who did not respond was 30-40%. The reason for this is related to the fact that this is a Service with which only a small portion of the population comes into direct contact; and most of the public (77%) has never visited a prison. Moreover, most of the public (71%) had not been exposed to any news item related related to the Prison Service, at least not in recent months. The public s main information source regarding the Prison Service is television and radio news items and news items in the written press. These information sources primarily emphasize newsworthy events, which by nature are partly negative and do not provide systematic information regarding the Prison Service or what transpires there. As aforementioned, most of the interviewees were unable to answer questions relating to the duties, functioning and image of the Prison Services. This fact had some impact on the distribution of valid answers and it can be assumed that the rate of positive evaluations regarding the Prison Service among interviewees who did not answer the questions is lower than those of the other interviewees. However, in our assessment, these are not large differences.

4 II The findings of the survey conducted in 2013 indicate that the majority of those respondents who were able to answer the questions answered that the Prison Service functioned successfully (62%) and that they had confidence in the service (54%). The service s image was also perceived as positive. Of those who answered the question, a particularly high evaluation was given with regard to the professional nature of the service, its success in providing personal security to the public and fair living conditions to the criminal inmates (between 80-82% of those responding to the question evaluated the service as successful in these areas). The image was perceived as less positive in terms of the rehabilitation of prisoners (49% thought that the service was successful) and in providing equal treatment to all the inmates (53% thought that the Service was successful). On questions that related to the prison guard s image, positive perception was defined as answers of to a very great extent and to a great extent (on a 5- point scale). Approximately half of those who answered the questions evaluated the prison guards as honest, trustworthy and ethical and as not overexerting their use of force. Slightly less evaluated the prison guards as giving equal treatment to all the prisoners (42%) and having a high level of professionalism (44%). Over 40% of interviewees did not answer the questions that evaluated the Prison Service s treatment of different prisoner groups. Among those who responded, close to half (47%) answered that the treatment of criminal prisoners (male adult prisoners, minors and female prisoners) was fair to a very great extent or a great extent. A higher percentage of respondents (54%) responded that the treatment of security prisoners was fair, and only one third of the respondents thought that the treatment of illegal immigrants and infiltrators from Africa was fair. The survey regarding the public s perception of the Prison Service was conducted after a hiatus of 6 years in which the subject was not assessed. On most of the factors that were examined in 2013, an improvement was indicated in the evaluation of the Prison Service in comparison to previous surveys conducted in the past. The improvement was most salient in comparison to the earlier measurement in 2007, in which a decrease in the evaluation of the Prison Service s functioning and image was recorded in comparison to previous years. However, the improvement in perception was also expressed in comparison to measurements that were conducted in the 1990s and at the beginning of the 2000s. High correlations were found between the variables that examined the Prison Service evaluation, a finding that indicates people s tendency to perceive the Service in a generalized manner. Interviewees that evaluated the Prison Service s functioning as

5 III successful, tended to express more confidence in the Service, to perceive the Prison Service and the prison guard in a positive manner and to perceive the Service as treating the different prisoner groups fairly, and vice versa, those who evaluated the Prison Service as unsuccessful, tended to express less confidence in the Service, to have a less positive perception of the Prison Service and the prison guard to have a less positive evaluation of the Prison Service and the prison guard and of their fair treatment of the prisoners. However, as previously mentioned, there were gaps in these perceptions, and the public is of the opinion that the Prison Service succeeds more in certain fields and less so in others. On the question that examined the most important role played by the Prison Service, out of six roles presented to the interviewees, there was a tendency among the respondents to place more emphasis on the role of prisoner rehabilitation (30%) and the role of protecting the public against criminal behavior (29%), and a lower tendency to emphasize roles such as punishment and deterrence. The emphasis placed on the role of prisoner rehabilitation as a central role indicates a change in relation to the measurements conducted at the beginning of the 2000s, when more respondents were of the opinion that the central role of prisons was to punish criminals. The large majority of the public did not feel that there was room to improve the prison conditions for criminal prisoners. Furthermore, 46% of those who responded to the questions thought that the prison conditions for criminal prisoners were better than necessary, as compared to only 13% who felt that the conditions were less favorable than necessary. As mentioned, in recent years, the importance of prisoner rehabilitation has increased in the eyes of the public. This is also expressed in the respondents assessment that the Prison Service does not dedicate enough resources and effort in rehabilitating prisoners (31%), in comparison to only 20% who were of the opinion that the Service does not dedicate enough resources and effort in guarding the prisoners. However, the public does not think that the role of prisoner rehabilitation comes at the expense of maintain security and preventing escape. When the respondents were asked whether the Prison Service should pay more attention to guarding, surveillance and supervision of the prisoners or to rehabilitation, most respondents said that equal attention should be given to both these roles; however, more respondents thought that more attention should be given to the role of surveillance than rehabilitation. In 2013, as in 2007, in comparison to earlier measurements, two findings were salient. The first is expressed in the increase in the percentage of respondents who were of the opinion that the Prison Service dedicates too

6 IV many resources, both to rehabilitation needs and to security needs. Also in 2013, more respondents answered that too little resources were invested in both the roles than did respondents who thought that too many resources were invested in these roles; however, during the decade between 2004 and 2013, the rate of respondents who thought that too many resources were invested in both the roles has doubled. The second finding is expressed in the closing of the gap in 2013 among the rate of respondents who were of the opinion that not enough resources were invested in rehabilitation and those who thought that not enough resources were dedicated to the role of security. In 2013, 33% thought that resources for rehabilitation were lacking as opposed to 23% who thought that security resources were lacking, a gap of 10 percentage points, as compared to a gap of 29 percentage points in Differences were found in terms of the familiarity with and interest in the Prison Services among interviewees who had visited prisons and the other interviewees. Those who had visited a prison tended to report, to a greater extent, that they were familiar with what was happening at the prisons and that they were more interested in what was happening at the prisons. They also tended to answer the questions that related to the evaluation of the Prison Service. The differences on most of the questions between the interviewees who had visited a prison and the other interviewees were small, in terms of their perception of the Prison Service s functioning, their confidence in the Service, the perception of the Prison Service s image, evaluation of its treatment of the different prisoner groups and assessment of the Service s success in the performance of its duties. The interviewees who had visited the prisons can be divided into three groups based on the reason for their visit: personal background - to visit a prisoner (31%), professional background (34%) and other background - participation in various activities organized by the Prison Service (25%). Visitors with a personal background tended to perceive the Prison Service and guard in a more negative manner and to express less confidence in the service, as compared to visitors who came for professional or other reasons. They also tended to evaluate the Prisoner Services treatment of the different prisoner groups as insufficient and tended to encourage programs alternative to incarceration and to agree to the building of a prison in their residential area. Visitors who came to the prison for purely professional reasons tended to perceive the image of the Prison Services and guard as more positive, they were of the opinion that the Service treats the different prisoner groups in a fair manner and supported programs alternative to incarceration more than those who visited for other reasons. However, a tendency was reported among those who visited for professional reasons to rate the professionalism of the Prison Service (but not the professionalism of the guard) as less

7 V positive in comparison to other visitors, and to support the building of a prison near their residential area to a lesser degree. Differences were indicated between Arabs and Jews on subjects related to the Prison Service. The first difference was expressed in the scope of their contact with the Service. Among the Arabs, 31% reported that they had once visited a prison in comparison to 21% of the Jews. The gap is related to the high percentage of Arabs who had visited a prison for personal reasons, in order to visit a prisoner. Most of the Arabs who visited a prison reported that they did so to visit a prisoner (58%), in comparison to only 24% of the Jewish visitors. More Jewish visitors tended to visit the prison for professional reasons or as part of an activity organized by the Prison Service. In total, a tendency was indicated among Arabs to assess the prisons as functioning in a good manner and as successfully performing their duties, slightly less than did the Jews. However, among the Arabs, there was a lesser tendency, as compared to the Jews, to assess the Prison Service as providing good conditions to criminal prisoners and treating security prisons in a fair manner. As expected, teenagers visited the prisons much less than adults (only 14% as compared to 29% of young adults ages 19 to 34) and they reported that they are less familiar with the Prison Service. Nevertheless, they had a greater tendency to answer the survey questions and reported that they were exposed more to the news items regarding prisons. A tendency was indicted among teenagers to express more positive opinions than did the adults, on some of the indicators that examined the attitudes toward the Prison Service. Consequently, teenagers were found to evaluate the Prison Service s functioning more successful to a greater extent than the adults, they expressed more confidence in the Service, and they tended to evaluate the Service as professional, providing fair conditions to criminal prisons and equal treatment to the prisoners to a slightly greater degree. However, teenagers tended to agree to the building of prisons in close proximity to their place of residence, to support alternative programs for prisoners and to work with rehabilitated criminals to a lesser degree. Differences were also indicated between men and women. Men visited prisons more frequently than women, they reported that they were familiar with the Prison Services and what happens there more than women and tended to answer the questions regarding the functioning and image of the Prison Service and guard to a greater extent than the women. Moreover, men assessed the Prison Service s functioning as positive more so than women, they tended to have more confidence in the Service and to evaluate the prison guard s image in a more positive manner than did the women. Another difference was indicated on the question that examined the Prison Service s most important role. Women tended to emphasize protection of public safety

8 VI more than the men and emphasized other roles to a lesser degree, especially the rehabilitation roles. Moreover, women tended to agree to the building of prisons close their place of residence, to support alterative programs for prisoners and to be willing to work in the same place as rehabilitated criminals to a lesser degree than the men. Conclusions Public knowledge of and interest in the Prison Service and what transpires there is limited. The reason for this stems from the fact that only a small portion of the population has direct contact with the Service and most of the public had never visited a prison and hadn t been exposed to a news item related to the Prison Service in recent months. Information sources related to the Prison Service stem primarily from the mass media. These information sources primarily place an emphasis on newsworthy events, some of which are negative by nature, and do not provide systematic information on the Prison Service and what happens there. In total, in 2013, the public assessed the Prison Service as having successfully performed its duties; it expressed confidence in the Service and perceived its image as positive. The evaluation of the Prison Service in 2013 was positive also in comparison to statistics from earlier years; however, since the survey was conducted after a hiatus of 6 years and in previous years it wasn t conducted consecutively, it is difficult to assess whether there is a trend toward improvement. There is a feeling among the majority of the public that the prison conditions of the criminal prisoners are good and even better than necessary. The public s feeling that the prisoners conditions are too good which primarily stemmed from information reported in the media could have implications on the fundraising efforts for subjects related to improving the prisoner s welfare. This finding highlights the dilemma faced by the Prison Service. On one hand, the welfare of the prisoners was perceived as one of the Prison Service s duties and the Service was judged based on its success in providing the prisoners with fair conditions. On the other hand, it seems that the public does not have expectations for such a substantial success in this field. Consequently, it was reported that the interviewees assessed the Prison Service as very successful in performing its duties related to the treatment of criminal prisoners; they tended to assess the criminal prisoner s conditions as too good to a larger extent. It is doubtful whether an attempt to change public perception with regard to the prisoners conditions will be achieved by increasing the public s exposure to what is being done at the prisons. Almost no differences were indicated in the evaluation of the prisoners condition

9 VII among interviewees who had visited a prison in the past and the other interviewees. Evaluation of the prisoners conditions is related to the general evaluation of the scope of resources allocated to the security and guarding of the prisoners and their rehabilitation. Over time, even though the statistics are not regular, there has been a downward trend in the rate of respondents who think that the Prison Service allocates too few resources for both maintaining security, guarding the prisons and for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Due to the public s limited knowledge regarding the prisons and its limited contact with the Service, no differences were indicated in the perceptions and evaluations of the Prison Service among interviewees living in the Service s various command districts - northern, central and southern - beyond the differences related to the population characteristics such as the concentration of the Arab population in the northern region. The Arab population in Israel has unique characteristics in terms of the general perception of the Prison Service. This unique nature is expressed in two main aspects. One relates to the fact that the rate of Arab prisoners in the prisons is larger than that of the percentage of Arabs in the general population. Consequently, the degree of their familiarity with the prisons is also larger. The second aspect relates to the different attitudes of this population toward security prisoners, practically all of whom are Arabs. This study indicated that Arabs tend to assess the prisons as functioning in a good manner and as successfully performing their duties somewhat less than did the Jews. However, there was a tendency among the Arabs to assess the Prison Service as providing better conditions to criminal prisoners, and as treating security prisoners in a fair manner less than did the Jews. This finding is related to the higher percentage of Arabs in prisons. This fact apparently was also related to the Arabs who expressed a greater willingness than Jews with regard to building a prison in close proximity to their place of residence, to making prisons more open in nature and to the development of programs alternative to incarceration. The differences that were indicated between men and women with regard to the Prison Service are expressed in the women s higher level of concern with regard to criminal behavior. Consequently, women trust the prisons to protect them and to prevent criminal behavior to a lesser degree and they are less prepared to support programs alternative to incarceration or to work with released prisoners. When evaluating the relationship between perceptions and assessments of the Prison Service and visits to the prisons, it is important to relate to the

10 VIII reason for the visit, since the actual visit is almost never related to the perceptions and assessments of the Service. It was found that the personal visits of prisoners led to a tendency to perceive the prisons in a relatively negative manner, since the visitors had a high level of expectation with regard o the optimal treatment of the family members or friends they were visiting. The perceptions of the Prison Service of those visiting for professional or other reasons were much more positive. There is a feeling prevalent among the public that illegal immigrants and infiltrators from Africa receive unfair conditions at Israeli prisons. This feeling is apparently a result of the media s extensive focus on these groups. The decisions regarding methods of handling illegal immigrants and infiltrators from Africa are not necessarily related to the Prison Service, but it is possible that the public s general feelings toward the policy in this field have implications for the public s attitude toward the Service. Recommendations The aforementioned recommendations are preliminary in nature and do not replace the need to develop in-depth recommendations for methods of action to be formulated by the professional parties. Based on the research findings and conclusions, it is recommended to work toward increasing the public s knowledge and awareness with regard to the Prison Service and its activity. Increasing knowledge and awareness is very important, primarily in order to increase public support for the policy that emphasizes rehabilitation programs or programs alternative to incarceration, or in order to change the existing image that prisoners conditions are too good. An attempt to deal with these goals requires fostering professional and public discussion regarding the comprehensive treatment of prisoners by the Prison Service, while attempting to reach a broad public consensus regarding the definition of the optimal conditions for dealing with prisoners and creating a basket of services for the prisoners. Naturally, such a discussion must be based on reliable information and not on impressions from the media. This will require greater openness on the part of the Service, openness which is compatible with the public s expectation. It is important to publicize the data regarding the success of programs alternative to incarceration, the success of mainstreaming rehabilitated prisoners in the workforce, and the success in guarding the prisoners at the prisons, in order to allay the public s existing fears both with regard to the alternative programs and the construction of detention facilities. In addition, it

11 IX is important to work with teenagers in order to increase their awareness with regard to subjects related to the Prison Service, and also to allay fears. Over time, the emerging trend in the public s perception that the Prison Service allocates too many resources both in securing and guarding the prisoners and also in their rehabilitation - a trend that correlates with the assessment that the prisoners conditions are too good -also indicates the need for public discussion. It is important to increase the public s contact with the prisons through planned visits of the prisons; however it is doubtful whether these visits will meet the needs to strengthen the connection to the Prison Service, particularly in light of the fact that these visits do not always improve the visitors perceptions. Recommendations regarding the Research Aspect Pursuant to the survey results, it is important for future surveys to examine the following points: To gather information in the Arab sector using other methods and special surveys in order to receive a more in-depth understanding of the perceptions and needs of this sector. To extensively examine the public s perceptions regarding the programs alternative to incarceration. To continue to conduct surveys regarding the Prison Service, both because the information on the Service is limited and the fact that the public perceptions are characterized by great fluctuation over time.

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