Supreme Court rules leniency for transgender prisoner

Convict who robbed a gas station will have a third of his sentence lopped off due to his need to be kept in solitary

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of a female prison guard at the Neve Tirza women's prison in Ramle (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a female prison guard at the Neve Tirza women's prison in Ramle (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

In what could be a precedent-setting ruling, a transgender man who took part in the violent robbery of a gas station will have his time behind bars reduced because his gender identity requires him to be kept in isolation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the subject, who was born with a female body but identifies as male, should serve just 10 months instead of 15 months, Haaretz reported over the weekend. The convict, 29, is in the process of a sex change and has already undergone surgery to remove his breasts.

Following an appeal, Supreme Court Justices Neal Hendel, Noam Solberg and Salim Joubran said that the particular requirements of the prisoner should be taken into consideration for sentencing.

“The personal circumstances of [the defendant] at this stage of her life are not routine or common, but are unusual,” Hendel ruled. “I am of the belief that it is appropriate for additional leniency when it comes to [her] sentence.”

The court recommended taking off five months from the time served but opposed substituting community service for incarceration due to the serious nature of the crime, the report said.

According to British news outlet GayStar News, the judges also wrote that sentencing for transgender prisoners should taken into account the fact that they are kept in solitary confinement.

Beersheba District Court initially sentenced the robber and two accomplices to time in prison after they were convicted for an April 2010 robbery at a gas station near Eilat in which they threatened an attendant with a knife and stole NIS 1,000 ($281). The court ordered they pay NIS 5,000 ($1,405)  in compensation to the attendant and each serve 15 months in prison. As for the transgender man, the court viewed him as a female prisoner.

“From a physiological standpoint, she is a woman and it doesn’t appear that there is anything preventing her from being sent to a women’s prison,” the court said. “In any event, it can be assumed that the prison service will act according to its policy and act in a manner that will not endanger her.”

However, Israel Prisoner Service regulations require that transgender prisoners be kept apart from the rest of the prison population to prevent harm to themselves or other prisoners. Through his lawyer from the Public Defender’s Office, Liora Glaubach-Hacohen, the transgender defendant, who cannot be named, appealed to the Supreme Court and claimed that isolation harshened the conditions of his incarceration, and should be taken into consideration during sentencing.

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