The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee decided on Thursday that detainees held on security-related offenses will not be allowed to make telephone calls to their families while in detention.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had asked the committee to approve the measure over concerns that some detainees were directing terror operations over the phone, even while in custody.
Ehud Halevy, the Israel Prison Service’s legal adviser, told the committee “this is crime that comes from ideological motives, and the motivation does not end with detention.”
Current regulations allow detainees held for security offenses who have already been indicted to make calls while being held until the end of legal proceedings. Prisoners who have not yet been indicted are not given access to telephones to speak with their families. Erdan’s request would make official a ban on all security detainees from placing calls. In practice, it’s already banned by the Israel Prison Service.
Halevy noted that the prison service is currently holding 5,686 people, of whom 1,610 have yet to be convicted.
Unlike security detainees, all convicted prisoners held in Israeli prisons are permitted to make phone calls to their families.
Aside from regulating the approved use of phones, prison authorities are also grappling with the problem of inmates using smuggled cellphones.
In May, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill that would regulate and define the measures prison authorities can take to prevent inmates — especially those convicted of security-related offenses — from unauthorized cellphone use.
The approval came hours after top security prisoner Abdullah Barghouti gave a telephone interview with Hamas radio using a mobile phone smuggled into his cell.
Measures taken to prevent unauthorized phone calls include blocking the signals in prison wings that house security convicts.
Current policies determine which prisoners are allowed access to cellphones, but the regulations can sometimes be unclear. The new bill doles out access to cellphones for prisoners based on the crimes of which they are convicted, and in particular if they are terror- or security-related offenses.
The bill, sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, noted that in recent years jailed terrorists have become increasingly more involved in efforts to direct and promote attacks against Israel, including kidnappings.
Cellphones have become a key method of connecting the operational requirements of those planning attacks with the experience possessed by those behind bars, the bill said.