Class action complaint against the Israel Prison Service: collects fees from inmates illegally
Under the Ordinance of the Israel Prison Service (IPS), prisoners are not permitted to keep cash or other means of payment in the prison. A prisoner can purchase items in prison only by charging his spendable account, managed by the IPS finance department. The prisoner's family has to make deposits into his account indirectly, through a Postal Bank account, owned by the IPS. In effect, every prisoner owns one account he can use to withdraw funds, and another corresponding "proxy" account
is owned by the IPS
for the single purpose of channeling money into his account. Note, this financial arrangement, set by the IPS itself
, has no alternatives.
Recently, following a complaint of a Palestinian prisoner held in Israel, it has been revealed that for every deposit into that transfer account, a fee of NIS 6.00 is deducted from the prisoner's spendable account. Apparently, the Postal Bank deducts the fee from the IPS-owned transfer account, and the IPS "shifts" the fee onto the inmate, deducting the sum from his personal spendable account. This clearly conflicts with the Postal Bank Regulations, which stipulate that "when funds are deposited into another's account – the account owner
is the payer of fee" (emphasis added).
On March 25, 2012, the Yakov Pink Law Firm filed a request for class action certification
on behalf of inmates injured by the IPS policy. The plaintiffs assert that the IPS infringes on the prisoners' right to property, and does so without authority and contrary to the principle of good faith. Furthermore, that the IPS conduct contradicts the constitutional principles of government in Israel, whereby, the IPS has to pay the fees from its own pockets and not the prisoners' pockets. The proposed lawsuit contends that every year, on average, a prisoner pays over NIS 200 in illegally charged fees, which annually add up to millions of NIS which the IPS pockets at the expense of the prisoners. The plaintiffs seek compensation from the IPS in the sum of NIS 9,000,000, and to compel it to immediately stop charging the prisoners fees for deposits made through the Postal bank into their accounts.