Adalah to Israeli Prison Service: Must install air conditioners in cells

Prison Service promised five years ago to deal with issue, but subsequent renovations have skipped over cells of Palestinian prisoners in Gilboa prison.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel on 16 August 2016 sent a letter to Israel Prison Service (IPS) Commissioner Ofra Klinger and to Gilboa prison warden Bassil Kishkush demanding that air conditioning units or coolers be installed in cells housing inmates classified by the IPS as “security prisoners”, who are almost exclusively Palestinians.


An average cell housing eight prisoners currently has one small, closely-barred window, making living conditions in the cells during the intense summer heat unbearable.


Adalah Attorney Aram Mahameed stressed in the letter that the IPS promised five years ago to deal with the issue but subsequent facility renovations have not included the cells of Palestinian prisoners housed in the security wing of Gilboa prison, located in the north of Israel.


"Some five years have passed and in the absence of a solution, living conditions in this prison's cells have gone from bad to worse, becoming more and more stifling and inhumane. This situation negatively impacts upon the daily function of the prisoners, on their health and physical condition, and likewise causes severe insomnia. Reminder: security prisoners spend the majority of both day and night in their cells."


File photo of prison facility in northern Israel. (Adalah)


Attorney Mahameed stressed that the current cell conditions are a violation of both Israeli and international law, impinging upon the basic right to dignity and to basic minimal conditions during detention.


"The right to a minimal degree of dignity is part of the constitutional right to dignity that guarantees the safeguarding of the human spirit, whether one is free or situated inside prison walls," Adalah emphasized. "Alongside the right of prisoners to suitable living and detention conditions, the state is also obligated to provide for prisoners' minimal needs to the same degree that it is obligated to provide for those of its all its residents… According to the circumstances described above, the Prison Service is violating its foremost obligation to supply basic minimal conditions for prisoners and to allocate the resources need for such."


Adalah stressed in the letter that the harm to prisoners' rights violates the law.


"This utter inappropriateness stems also from violation of the international law pertaining to this issue. The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1955, rules in Article 10 that 'all accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.' This is accepted as the minimum standard for reasonable conditions to which prisoners are entitled."


Over the years, U.S. courts have declared that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from imposing “cruel and unusual punishment”, forbids incarceration in decidedly hot or cold temperatures. Further in November 2014, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) in its review of the U.S., noted particular concern about “reports of inmate deaths [that] occurred as a result of extreme heat exposure while imprisoned in unbearably hot and poor ventilated prison facilities in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Michigan and Texas (arts. 2, 11 and 16),” and it urged the U.S. to “adopt urgent measures to remedy any deficiencies concerning the temperature, insufficient ventilation and humidity levels in prison cells” (para. 22)


In light of this, Adalah demands the IPS act to install air conditioners or coolers in the cells of inmates classified by the IPS as security prisoners.


READ: Adalah Letter to Israel Prison Service (Hebrew)