Huge leap in number of Jews behind bars

Figures show rise of over 80 per cent, with violence the most common offence

By Josh Jackman, October 7, 2015


Click on the pie chart above to open up an interactive infographic of the figures

The number of Jews in prison has increased by 82 per cent since 2002, nearly four times more than the national rate, the JC can reveal. Ministry of Justice figures show that as of June this year, there are currently 327 people registered as Jewish incarcerated in jails in England and Wales. This is nearly double the equivalent figure 13 years ago, when there were 179 Jewish inmates.

The overall prison population has gone up by 21 per cent in the same period, to 86,300.

This disproportionate rise is further emphasised by census statistics, which show that the number of Jews in England and Wales went up from 2001 to 2011 by 3,419 — or 1.3 per cent.

The most common crime Jews were convicted of was violence against another person, with nearly one-third of convicts serving time for the offence. This is more than twice the rate in the general population, which stands at 13 per cent.

According to Rabbi Michael Binstock, director of Jewish Prison Chaplaincy, the figures undermined the stereotype that Jewish offenders were more likely to be guilty of so-called white-collar crimes.

Pentonville Prison, London (Picture: PA)

Pentonville Prison, London (Picture: PA)

Rabbi Binstock, who also acts as Jewish faith advisor to the Prison Service, said: “The myth is they’re all there for fraud, which is untrue. We have a lot of sex offenders, paedophiles and abusers, and several serving life for murder — the full gamut of crime, in fact.”

The rabbi, who has been helping inmates for more than four decades, also pointed out that though the number of Jewish prisoners has risen, it is still “low and very under-representative of the Jewish community”.

The most recent census in 2011 showed that Jews make up 0.47 per cent of people in England and Wales, while Jewish inmates constitute 0.38 per cent of the prison population.

After violence, the most prevalent crimes in the community were theft, and drug and sexual offences.

Though Jews committed proportionately much less theft than the wider population, three times more members of the community were convicted for sexual offences and twice as many for robbery (theft by means of force or fear).

Jewish offenders were also more likely to be guilty of drug offences or fraud than the average convict.

Almost three-quarters of Jews in prison for violent offences had been given indeterminate sentences, where inmates are handed a release date that is conditional on passing a parole hearing. This type of ruling, now defunct, was given for serious offences that also included sexual crimes.

Just under one-in-three Jewish prisoners received an indeterminate sentence, and though the practice no longer exists, a Ministry of Justice spokesman emphasised that the rulings would not be altered retrospectively, as they were “designed to protect the public from serious offenders whose crimes did not merit a life sentence”.

Excluding those with indeterminate sentences, more than one in every six Jewish inmates are serving sentences of 10 years or more. More than one-third of those serving the highest category of determined sentence — 14 years or more — were imprisoned for drug offences, more than for any other type of crime.

The figures were obtained from the Ministry of Justice following a Freedom of Information request.

They also revealed that the number of Muslim and Buddhist prisoners has risen dramatically over the past 13 years, while the figure for Anglican Christians has dropped by more than a third.

Last updated: 11:45am, October 8 2015