Ahead of Israel's 60th Anniversary celebrations, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected authorized the release of some 30 Israelis from the state's prisons, thus allowing them to serve the remainder of their sentences in Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
California's overcrowded prison system was cited as the official reason for the release of the prisoners. The state's prisons currently house 170,000 inmates, about 77,000 more than they can actually hold. The gesture marks a shift in the policy of the state's parole board, which has rejected numerous pleas by Israeli prisoners for an early release.
Mordehai Tzivlin, a defense attorney for the Israeli prisoners abroad and their families, said leaders of California's Jewish community were behind Schwarzenegger's decision.
According to Israeli Foreign Ministry data, 40 Israelis are currently being held in Los Angeles prisons, while 15 more are serving time in San Francisco for various offenses, including murder, money laundering, drug-trafficking and fraud.
It is estimated that the list of prisoners slated for release will not include Israelis who were indicted for murder or those who hold American citizenship. Israelis imprisoned in California's federal prisons will also be excluded.
The transfer of the prisoners to Israel is scheduled to begin in the beginning of June and will be concluded within a few months. The International Division at the State Prosecutor's Office has already drafted a list of 31 prisoners Israel is requesting that Californian authorities release as part of the gesture.
Tova Tzimuki contributed to the report