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September 19, 2012

Where's the Coverage? Israeli Prisons are… Festive


When you hear the words "Israeli prison," what image springs to mind? If you read the popular press, it's probably not a "festive environment" where "nothing is lacking." You most likely do not envision meditation rooms with glow-in-the-dark fish tanks, petting zoos, art and dance classes, satellite television, internet access, smartphones, advanced education programs including university degrees and even PhDs in some cases. But, if you watched "LOCKUP World Tour: Israel," that's exactly what you saw.

"LOCKUP" is a documentary series that depicts life behind prison walls and airs on MSNBC. The episode featuring prisons in Israel originally aired in May, 2012, and has not received much media attention since though there was a post on the BuzzFeed Web site in the spring. The Israel episode re-aired the weekend of September 15 and 16 and international affairs commentator Tom Gross wrote:

At Rimonim prison, inmates are allowed to bring their own clothes and personal appliances with them to prison. Inmates cook together in communal kitchens, and prison staff eat food prepared by inmates. Jewish and Arab inmates socialize both with each other and with the guards, in what MSNBC terms "a very social and festive environment."

"I feel like I am in a hotel," says one Palestinian inmate as he shows MSNBC around his cell -- which is bigger than many New York apartments I have visited -- with kitchen equipment, bookshelves and a private bathroom. "Nothing is lacking."

The Times of Israel reported:

Lockup producers were consistently surprised by the level of coziness and normality found in Israeli prisons. Israeli-Arabs are interviewed about their lives in Hebrew, with paintings of large pomegranates and Disney characters filling the walls behind them. One Israeli-Arab inmate spoke about pranks he pulls on the guards, including pilfering cell phones from under their noses and returning them with a laugh.

The program mentions that Israel has lower incarceration and recidivism rates than most Western countries and generally paints a positive picture -- considering it's about prison. It is to the credit of MSNBC that the network aired it, though the series is produced by an independent company called 44 Blue Productions.

Perhaps the news division at NBC, along with the news operations at CBS, ABC, CNN, FOX and others could take a page out of the playbook of the reality programmer because when it comes to positive aspects of Israeli society… Where's the coverage?

To view clips from the program, click here and click here.

Posted by SC at September 19, 2012 11:15 PM


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