Gilboa Prison
© AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90View of the Gilboa Prison December 5, 2022.
A new report published by the public defender on Tuesday morning reveals a troubling picture of the conditions in which prisoners are held in the aftermath of the war in Gaza. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the Israel Security Service (Shin Bet) must ensure a minimum living space of 4.5-4 square meters, which includes a bed and mattress for each prisoner.

It was determined that the implementation of the ruling would take place in two stages, gradually reducing the number of prisoners and opening additional prison wings. However, the Israel-Hamas War and the wave of arrests that followed have increased the number of prisoners from 16,000 to over 20,000. As a result, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir declared a state of emergency in prisons, allowing the Shin Bet to deviate from the regulations imposed on the organization.

The overcrowding in cells is only growing, and "the conditions violate human dignity and the human image," as stated in the report. "Even when dealing with those convicted of serious crimes, the detainee's right to sleep on a mattress is a fundamental part of the minimal conditions given to a person as part of defending his dignity. Moreover, according to international law, holding a prisoner in an area less than 3 square meters is considered cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment."

The findings regarding the conditions of criminal and security prisoners in Israeli prisons were exposed during comprehensive visits by representatives of the ombudsman to prisons throughout the country in recent times. According to the report, in Wing 1 of the Carmel prison, there were about 88 prisoners, 10 above the allowed capacity. In one of the cells, 13 prisoners were placed, with beds in the center of the room, each given a living space of 2.42 square meters.

Inside a prison wing israel gaza
© ISRAEL PRISON SERVICEInside a prison wing
The result of this is high tension within the prison, increasing clashes among the prisoners and queues for the services. The adults among them find it difficult to restrain themselves and wait for their turn in the bathroom.

Comment: Released prisoners, including children and women, have spoken of how they were raped; tortured in various ways, including with dogs; repeatedly assaulted; denied food and water, sometimes for days; and how they would be deliberately prevented from going to the toilet to the point where they urinated or defecated on themselves - the euphemism above is probably referring to that form of torture and degrading punishment.

In addition, the prisoners complained about the cold prevailing in the cells during the night hours.
Furthermore, the report states that in Damon prison, prisoners sleep on mattresses on the floor. In Eshel prison, in Wing 5 which houses defenseless prisoners, a bad odor fumed from the toilet facilities and cockroaches entered the cells through the sewage system.

In Wing 6 - the security wing - a prisoner reported that all his personal belongings, including pictures of his family, cooking utensils, and food, were taken from him and he was left with only his clothes. The prisoner also noted that they receive a vegetable package consisting of six items, but without the cooking utensils, there is no way to cook them. Another security prisoner reported that he was left with only one shirt and complained that his glasses were broken and he had no replacement.

In the Russian Compound, a detention facility in Jerusalem, about 170 detainees are held regularly. However, due to the outbreak of the war, there were about 230 detainees. The conditions there were not good because the detainees were without mattresses and had to eat meals in the dark without electricity. The findings show that there were detainees who were left in their cells after the cancellation of the yard time due to the war outbreak.

As a result, some detainees did not see daylight throughout their detention period and some complained that their clothes were not replaced. Several of the Jewish security detainees in the facility complained that a few hours before the visit, their mattresses were taken from them, and the prison administration clarified that there are different guidelines regarding Jewish security detainees compared to Arab security detainees and explained: "The guidelines given to the different populations of security prisoners are a direct result of the risks and dangers they seek to prevent, the existing and necessary differentiation between populations with different risk characteristics of security prisoners."

Recommendations for improving prison conditions

In the public ombudsman's report, they recommend adding prison spaces, promoting rapid construction plans for correctional facilities, reducing the number of prisoners and defendants behind bars and fences, among other things, by releasing prisoners to house arrest under electronic supervision, releasing suspects arrested for investigation purposes, and expanding the administrative mechanism.

Comment: That's because many, if not most, of those in prison are there based on 'suspicion', or they're there are trumped up charges - IDF soldiers have proudly admitted on camera to doing this - and so the prisoners are held being there unlawfully, and Israel prevents the case from going to court. Even when they do go to the apartheid court, set up to deal with Palestinians, it has an above 80% conviction rate.

The Ombudsman also recommends formulating an updated construction plan for detention facilities, as the current ones are overcrowded due to the surge in arrests as a result of the war with Hamas and its operatives.

They wrote: "In summary, the picture that emerges at the visited correctional facilities is distressing: unbearable overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, pest problems, inadequate ventilation, lack of basic equipment for prisoners, and more.

Overall, the ombudsman representatives were impressed that the worsening overcrowding in the correctional facilities has noticeable consequences not only for the inmates but also for the prison staff - much greater density in a situation where the prisoners are already under pressure and anxiety may lead to unnecessary conflicts between the inmates themselves and between them and the staff, as well as impairing the achieved therapeutic and rehabilitation outcomes."

Comment: That's certainly a few of the sinister intentions.

Eshel Prison   Beersheba  gaza israel
© Liron MoldovanEshel Prison near Beersheba
Alongside the severe overcrowding prevailing in correctional facilities, it should be mentioned that during the emergency period, numerous changes were made that further affected the rights of prisoners, worsened their conditions, and intensified their distress.

Recently, the gradual return to routine in the penal sector has included preventing visits and furloughs, reducing educational, therapeutic, and rehabilitation activities, reducing the hours of outdoor ventilation to the point of keeping inmates confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, and restricting telephone access.

It should also be noted that for several weeks, release hearings for prisoners whose early release was imminent were canceled. Additionally, hearings on prisoners' appeals were canceled altogether, except for detention hearings that were held without the presence of the detainees, only through videoconferencing or in many cases, by telephone.

The Israel Prison Service stated, "With the outbreak of the 'Iron Swords' war, the prison service operates under a state of emergency with the admission of thousands of security and criminal prisoners. With the appointment of the prison service's new commissioner, Superintendent Kobi Yaakobi, on January 24, 2024, he requested to receive the responsibility for the prison service and took concrete steps, including promoting the 888 plan to add prison spaces, continuing the planning of the prison service, paying attention to the Supreme Court's decisions, and ensuring the safety and security of the staff."