Ofer Prison, June 8 – A recent tightening of rules in this military prison has made it difficult for inmates to focus properly on the free postsecondary education they receive, prisoners are complaining.
After an inmate gave an interview last week to a Hamas-run TV station using a cellular phone from inside a prison, Israeli authorities cracked down, and have taken measures to ensure no further breaches of imposed isolation take place. As a result of that and other restrictions, however, inmates note that they are having a hard time focusing properly on the lessons and coursework for the free university-level education that Israel provides.
“I’m trying to get a degree in Marxist political theory, but the new disciplinary regime is putting a damper on my studying schedule,” said Freel Oder, 29. Oder is serving two life sentences for his role in a Tel Aviv bus bombing in 2002 that left five Israelis dead, but he anticipates being released one day in a prisoner swap. “When I do get out – and it’s inevitable, given how hard Hamas is trying to kidnap soldiers – I need to be on top of my political and intellectual game. I can’t do that if my time in the prison library is limited to half an hour a day.”
International human rights organizations have decried the new restrictions. “We call on Israel to undo the oppressive new regulations, which infringe on the rights of the prisoners,” said Amnesty International spokesman Freeda Krimnalz.
IDF officials explained that the new policy was implemented to enhance security, and that further restrictions would be placed on the inmates if necessary. “We have already canceled the free massages and sauna hours at three of the major prisons, and at a fourth there are no longer any subscriptions available to new Marvel or DC superhero comics,” said Major Arieli Minnit. “If security does not improve soon, we will also be forced to stop offering buttered popcorn on movie night.”
Such moves would further strain the inmates’ ability to complete the proper coursework, but prison officials remain unswayed. “There is no inherent right to butter on one’s popcorn, and in fact it might be our obligation to safeguard the inmates’ health by omitting those saturated fats,” said Minnit. “Anyone who wants to focus on academics can do so without these distractions.”
Minnit declined to comment on whether Happy Hour would continue to take place every Wednesday at 5 pm.
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