Photos reveal the harsh reality of Israel's sole women's prison

  • There is only one women's prison in Israel — Neve Tirza.
  • Just over 200 inmates call the prison home, and many of them languish in overcrowded cells and receive little care from guards.
  • Jews, Muslims, and Christians share cells together, as do first-time offenders and veteran inmates.


There are more than 20,000 prisoners and detainees in Israel.

Just 1% of them are women, and they're all housed at a single prison — Neve Tirza.

Located in the central Israeli town of Ramla, about 15 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, Neve Tirza is home for just over 200 female inmates. Opened in 1968, Neve Tirza is the only women's prison in Israel, and Jews, Muslims, and Christians live alongside each other in its tight, overcrowded cells.

Israel photographer Tomer Ifrah made several visits to Neve Tirza in 2013 and documented the isolation and claustrophobia shared by many of the inmates there. His images shined new light on a facility that has been accused of inhumane treatment of its prisoners, including physical abuse and a lack of proper medical care.

He also discovered that female prisoners in Israel face a unique stigma when they try to re-enter society, leading many of them to wind up back in prison. You can check out more of Ifrah's work at his website and his Instagram account.

Click to take a look inside Neve Tirza:

17 PHOTOS
Inside Israel's women's prison
See Gallery
Inside Israel's women's prison

Neve Tirza is the only women's prison in Israel. It houses just over 200 of Israel's 20,000 prisoners.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: The Jerusalem Post

Neve Tirza is dangerously overcrowded, with up to six inmates sharing each 140-square-foot cell.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Refinery29

The majority of the inmates at Neve Tirza are mothers. Inmates have complained the prison doesn't give them adequate space to spend time with their children when they visit.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Refinery29

Many of the inmates are victims of sex work and have a history of drug addiction and being sexually abused. Some of the inmates participate in trauma therapy groups.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Haaretz

Some inmates have also reported physical abuse at the hands of prison guards.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Haaretz

The prison's solitary confinement wing has cells so small that an average-sized person can't turn around in them. 'The wing is bug-infested and without air-conditioning or working fans,' Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Haaretz

In 2003, an anti-torture group complained that inmates were subjected to violence, improper medical care, unjustified isolation, and strip searches that violated their dignity, among other alleged offenses.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: World Organisation Against Torture

Mental illness is a common problem among inmates, but the prison doesn't have the capacity to treat inmates. "If you put people who are unhealthy in their minds together it can be hell for them," Ifrah told Prison Photography.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Prison Photography

And because it's the only women's prison in the country, that means teenagers and first-time offenders often share cells with hardened, veteran inmates.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Refinery29

Jewish, Muslim, and Christian inmates coexist in the same cells, as do other ethnic minorities and immigrants. Their shared adversity helps them form close relationships, Ifrah said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Refinery29

Inmates at Neve Tirza are afforded small comforts, such as cigarettes, television, and their own clothing.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

But "there’s a weary sadness to many of Ifrah's portraits, a symbiosis between the women’s environment and the way they present themselves to the camera," as Refinery29 wrote.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Refinery29

"Neve Tirza is a very difficult place to be," Ifrah told Prison Photography. 'It is a very intense place. The atmosphere is not easy. It’s so small."

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Prison Photography

Most inmates have trouble finding work after they are released, and 70% of Neve Tirza inmates end up back in prison. The high recidivism rate is in part because female ex-convicts are treated more harshly than male ones, one former inmate said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: The Jerusalem Post

"The world doesn’t accept a female prisoner,' the former inmate told The Jerusalem Post. "They'll accept a man going to prison, that makes sense, there's an expectation. But a woman? What’s a woman doing in prison, they ask."

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: The Jerusalem Post

The inmates occasionally participate in theater projects that reflect on themes of motherhood and imprisonment. "A mother's emotion is universal, it's powerful," Keren Cohen-Israeli, the director of one of the plays, told Israeli media.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: i24 News

The harsh reality of Neve Tirza helps inmates become close. "There is lots of love among the prisoners," Ifrah told Refinery29. "They often care very deeply for each other. It feels like a very close family."

Photo Credit: Courtesy Tomer Ifrah

Source: Refinery29

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

See Also:

 

SEE ALSO: A photographer spent 3 months following commuters on the Moscow Metro to see what life is really like in the capital of Russia

DON'T MISS: A police officer who went to jail undercover quit the force after he got out — and his decision is a sobering reminder of how bad prison really is

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.