Wed, 05 Jan 2000

Bribery, vice part and parcel of prison life

BOGOR (JP): Bribery has long been rampant in this country and it comes as no surprise, therefore, that the practice even extends to the country's prisons.

Those imprisoned for drug offenses, for example, can still buy and safely smoke marijuana inside their cells without being bothered by prison guards, given one condition: that of money.

At the Cipinang Penitentiary in Central Jakarta, a prisoner told The Jakarta Post that he could even arrange sex for his fellow inmates, with their partners or prostitutes, at a corner of the prison complex, as long as they could provide both him and the guards with a certain amount of money.

Of course, the prison's officials denied such acts were being orchestrated on their turf.

According to a drug defendant in Bogor, it was easy to get any kind of drug, such as marijuana, putaw (low-grade heroin) or shabu-shabu (crystal methamphetamine), at Pledang prison, where he was temporarily detained during the court hearing of his case.

Joni, not his real name, said the narcotics could be bought by any prisoner or defendant from certain visitors and prison guards.

"There are two special rooms allocated for people involved in drug-related cases with room for 20 and 22 people each," he told the Post recently while waiting for the hearing of his case at the Bogor District Court.

"Half the prisoners still take drugs. Usually they take them in the evening hours in the corner of the rooms," Joni said.

The people, he said, bought the drugs from prison guards.

"An envelope containing four rolls of marijuana sells for Rp 15,000, slightly higher than the street price of Rp 10,000. The guards argue that the extra Rp 5,000 is for transportation fees," Joni said.

Money, he added, could buy anything inside the prison.

"It's not only about drugs. If you have enough money, you can buy other illegal items, such as gambling coupons and booze. Inmates could, he said, even buy the services of prostitutes.

Such unlawful practices, he said, usually took place at night when control by senior officials of the prison was no longer as tight.

"During the night hours, like the prisoners and defendants, the guards also gamble and get drunk," Joni revealed.

If the people failed to deal with the guards or officials, they were arrested on new charges of using drugs inside the prison, he said, referring to a recent case in which four prisoners were brought to the police for smoking marijuana.

Three of the men were finally incarcerated at the Sukamiskin Penitentiary in Bandung, while the other was allowed to remain at the Pledang prison.

"The man (allowed to stay behind) is my close friend. He decided to settle the case by bribing the officials with Rp 400,000," Joni said.

His three friends failed to properly "approach" the police and the prison officials, he explained.

Joni also said that the guards often acted as preman (hoodlums), particularly if they saw that the prisoners just received money from their visiting families or relatives.

"My family, for example, visit me once every two weeks and give me at least Rp 70,000 per visit," he said.

But the money usually quickly vanished since he had to spend Rp 22,000 on guards on both the day and night shifts, and also on their bosses.

"The rest, I usually use to pay my debts and give to the other guards that are still preying on me."

"It's a headache, not to mention the terror it causes," Joni said. (24/bsr)