IDF Plans Reform in Soldier Punishments

IDF soldiers. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

A few days – or weeks – in the brig is a common experience for IDF soldiers, many of whom are detained in a military holding facility for violating even minor strictures relating to uniforms, fighting, carelessness with equipment, going AWOL for a few hours, or using a military vehicle without authorization. It’s a waste of time, effort and manpower, the IDF has decided – and according to Yediot Acharonot, the army will be replacing those sentences of up to several months for minor offenses with work in hospitals, schools, and other community settings.

Similar to the idea of public service in lieu of jail time for minor offenses in civil life, the IDF program will seek to make offenders “pay” for their crimes by giving back to society.

The new approach is being promoted by the Military Prosecutors Office, which says it has found itself using precious resources to punish soldiers for relatively minor offenses, when those resources could better be used to do more thorough work on more important cases. According to the prosecutors, public service has proven to be more effective in motivating minor offenders not to repeat offenses, and has the benefit of giving a boost to public institutions and organizations that need help. They would like to see the same process enacted in the army.

In recent weeks, a committee headed by former High Court justice Dalia Dorner has concluded that sending soldiers to the brig for minor offenses “has not helped reform the offender, and has the disadvantage of bringing the offender into the company of more serious offenders that could lead to further crimes.

In addition, jailing minor offenders costs large sums of money that could be spent more effectively in alternative ways. Taking a tough stance against first-time offenders especially, in fact, brings about the opposite results than are expected or desired,” the committee’s report said.