Sunday, March 11, 2018

On the backs of children with disabilities: 3 Aleh tales

The caption on the original reads: "The prisoners
shed their uniforms before arriving
at ALEH to volunteer." [
Image Source]

Aleh has been congratulating itself for a program that it boasts rehabilitates felons. Only it does so on the backs of children and adults with severe disabilities.

It is now abundantly clear how respected this program is elsewhere: since its launch in 2008, no other institution has copied it anywhere in the world! This has been verified by the International Corrections and Prison Association ("ICPA"), an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. 

In 2011, ICPA bestowed the Offender Management and Reintegration Award on that Aleh program. But when contacted, the ICPA could not name another such program in any other prison. For corroboration it referred me to the Israel Prisons Service

Here is their response:
Dear Frimet Roth
I received your question from Fraser Brayns [of the ICPA]
As you know, this is a unique project that was initiated at the Israel prison service.
I asked around and we are not familiar with similar projects that are currently being implemented in other countries. [Emphasis added - FR]
Please don't hesitate to contact me on any further question.
Best wishes
(I first reported this is December 2016. See this post.)

Aleh Negev itself conceded that this is not exactly a safe model: none of the prisoners bussed there several times a week is allowed contact with any female or any minor Aleh residents. Nor may they enter the institution's therapy pool. 

No puzzle here. These are not ex-convicts but men who have not yet served out their sentences which, by Aleh's account, can even top seven years in prison. Israel's justice system does not impose terms that long for mild offenses. 

But what is infuriating is that those same prisoners are deemed by Aleh harmless enough to remove their prison garb, blend in with the staff and engage in one-on-one contact with its vulnerable male residents.


We've been reminded by our State Attorney Shai Nitzan (as I wrote in "Is this why our government loves Aleh?") that Israel's resource-deprived southern periphery is blessed by the employment opportunities provided by those same citizens with disabilities

Twelve years ago, I wrote ["Institutionalization isn't the answer", Jerusalem Post, June 28, 2006] about the then-nascent Aleh Negev project that Aleh's promoters had snared 46.5 million taxpayers' shekels and 100 dunams of public land. 

The bait included 500 jobs to boost the ailing Negev economy; creating lucrative on-site businesses including a coffee company; a for-profit paramedical therapies center; and opportunities for local high school students to earn matriculation points by volunteering.
The CEO at the time of Bizchut, the Center for Human Rights of People with Disabilities, Sylvia Tessler-Lazovic, wrote a scathing critique (in Hebrew, here) of Aleh Negev in reaction to the 2003 groundbreaking ceremony:
The Israeli government is allegedly demonstrating social sensitivity of the first degree in building a magnificent village for one of society's "weakest" populations. In a period of severe financial shortage, the government is withholding no professional or monetary resources from this group, allots a large tract of land for the construction of the village and develops a grand plan for it. It appears that its residents will receive the best care that money can buy. Establishing the village will also bring salvation to the unemployment struck desert by providing 500 jobs to operate it. In this article I intend to show that the decision to build this village doesn't show social sensitivity at all but is tainted with extreme immorality that opposes the rights of people with disabilities to equality and is illegal. [Translated to English by me.]
Illustrative [Image Source]

And now, this month, we've been informed that on the backs of Aleh residents, other citizens with disabilities are being employed - as gardeners on the Aleh Negev grounds: "New ALEH Program Creates Equal Employment Opportunities", February 19, 2018.

In this latest ruse, people with disabilities are being used at both ends - they create the jobs and they fill them. 

For an overview of my general critique of Aleh's approach - its methodology, its funding, its public relations -  see "Disabled: The pursuit of housing equality for Israel’s underclass" [Times of Israel, August 11, 2013]

The message must be reiterated loud and clear. Regardless of the benefits derived for the rest of society, locking up and isolating our children with disabilities is not OK.

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