Kerobokan Prison: The Mercy Campaign

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Today's news in Indonesia and Australia focuses on the abysmal conditions described in a book "The Kerobokan Hotel." The book describes Kerobokan Prison as a hellhole.

Since the book was written, programs have been launched at the prison aimed at rehabilitation and bettering conditions. While those programs are worthy of praise and continued support, with more than 1,000 inmates in a space built for 300 (now down to 900 after some agreed after the riots to move to prisons closer to their homes in Java), it's nowhere near enough -- particularly when the corruption of guards, who dole out better treatment for those who pay, remains and non-violent drug offenders are on death row. [More...]

Last year the Governor of the Prison admitted the conditions at the prison are inhumane. A recent Aussie inmate describes the double standards and graft here.

As Kodam IX/Udayana spokesperson, Colonel. Arm. Wing Handoko said today:

Wing explained that the riot happened because of the inmates’ accumulation of frustration towards the prison guards. “There’s injustice, authoritarian attitude, also extortion. All of these issues became the trigger,” he added. “We need to reform the prison, not just in Kerobokan, but the condition is the same all over Indonesia.”

87 people are on death row in Indonesia, more than 50 of whom have been convicted of drug-related offences. Myran Sukmaran and Andrew Chan are the two Bali 9 inmates on death row at Kerobokan.

According to the comments in the article about Hotel Kerobokan, many written by a person whose moniker is Standard Poodle Bearer and who visits the prison twice a week as part of a group providing educational and psychological services to "teach art, drawing, sewing, patternmaking, cooking, reflexology, philosophy, English, computer skills":

A small number of thugs in the jail [and every jail has them] started a riot. It is over now thanks to Myuran Sukumaran getting the cell-blok leaders to co-operate and negotiate with the warden and authorities. (my emphasis)

Isn't it time for Indonesia to show some appreciation for Sukumaran and take him off death row?

Since Myuran lost his death penalty appeal, his fate, like Andrew Chan's, has been in the hands of Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a bid for clemency that has not yet been decided. (Shapellle Corby's clemency bid is also pending.)

Myuran and Andrew were instrumental in launching a series of English and computer courses for prisoners at Kerobokan.

The courses were inspired and partly run by Sukumaran, [Andrew]Chan and fellow Bali 9 member Matthew Norman, as part of their bid to provide rehabilitation behind bars and to give something back to Indonesia. ....Myuran teaches computer and graphic design courses, giving fellow inmates much needed job skills. His aim is to provide rehabilitation and to give something back to the Indonesian community.

Myuran has attempted to establish a drug-counselling program in the prison. He describes his arrest as 'a blessing', saying:

You know, when I think back at my life, I never really contributed to anything. Now I'm doing all sorts of stuff around here. It feels good, really good.

Prison authorities also laud his accomplishments:

Prison authorities have appointed Myuran a 'kelian banjar' under a program of prison leadership set up by prison governor Siswanto, modelled on the Balinese system of village government. Myuran supervises a group of around 20 prisoners, assigning them tasks, liaising with guards, resolving disputes, overseeing penalties, and making small repairs in the prison. In extraordinary evidence, Governor Siswanto, at the final appeal, said he believes Myuran is a well-behaved prisoner who has turned over a new leaf and was unlikely to commit similar crimes in the future. He asked that Myuran be spared execution.

Andrew Chan, the other Bali 9 prisoner sentenced to death and awaiting a decision on clemency, has similarly contributed and should be taken off death row. See Lives Transformed in the Shadow of Death. Here is a short interview with Myuran:

Here are short interviews with Andrew Chan and the lawyer who represents both of them.

On the art program, see:

While some things at Kerobokan have changed for the better, and the book "Hotel Keroboan" may be outdated, it is still an overcrowded hellhole of a prison. It houses murderers, rapists and terrorists together with hundreds of people including children and pregnant women convicted of petty offenses and non-violent drug crimes.

It is beyond absurd that Indonesia sentences drug dealers to death and houses them at Kerobokan where the guards who run the prison sell drugs to the inmates.

From 2005: Life in an Indonesian Prison and Shapelle Corby: Kerobokan Prison Conditions. (Also here.) All of our coverage of Schapelle Corby dating back to her arrest in 2005 is here.

You can help. Visit The Mercy Campaign. Sign the Petition. As a result of the riots, Indonesia knows the whole world is watching. Help keep the pressure on. Bali is not a paradise so long as these injustices persist. There are beautiful beaches all over the world far more worthy of your tourist dollars.

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