A Clockwork Orange

The Israel Prison Service's new orange uniforms have infuriated inmates.

Around a year ago, the Israel Prison Service issued new, orange uniforms to inmates to replace the old brown uniforms. An article in Yedioth Ahronoth last July quoted the Prison Service as saying that inmates who were issued the new uniforms, which are trimmed with reflective stripes, took them happily, as their color "is much cheerier than the gloomy brown uniforms."

Really? Attorney Majd Bader of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel says all the inmates he has met at Israel's security prisons vehemently object to the new uniforms and refuse to wear them.

"It raises very negative associations with Guantanamo," Bader said. "There was a sense that this was an attempt to link them with Al-Qaida or attach that label. Another thing is that orange uniforms are the uniforms of death row inmates in Western countries. And the claim that the new uniforms prevent escapes is completely illogical: Anyone who goes to a security prison will see what the level of supervision is there."

The Prison Service has taken strong action against the protest: Inmates who refuse to wear the new uniforms are being denied visitors and other privileges. In April, there was even a clash between inmates and prison guards from the service's Nachshon unit, after inmates attempted to strip the orange uniform off a fellow prisoner who traveled with them on a prison bus following an interrogation.

Bader does not think the uniforms are just an excuse for inmates to clash with Prison Service officials. "There are enough other reasons to confront them," he said. "They don't need the uniforms."

The Prison Service said in response: "The decision to replace the uniforms stemmed from security considerations. The orange color offers the best visibility and is standard use for prisoner uniforms in many places. The reflective stripe was added to increase visibility. The clothes are sewn by the Prison Service and made from light, airy fabric. On April 22, inmates noticed another inmate wearing an orange uniform, shouted at him and tried to strip him. A Nachshon team prevented physical contact between the prisoners and separated them."