Sat, 23 Aug 2003

Prison a haven for drug sales

Multa Fidrus, The Jakarta Post, Tangerang

Drug dealing is certainly a profitable business, making it irresistible to inmates of the Tangerang penitentiary. They can operate quite efficiently from behind bars, seemingly undeterred by death sentences, already handed down by the Tangerang District Court.

Using mobile phones to sell drugs to other inmates and to buyers outside the prison's walls, they sell a range of drugs: cocaine, putaw (low-grade heroin), shabu-shabu (crystal methamphetamine), ecstasy pills and marijuana.

They are either fearless or ignorant of the fact that 21 people, including six women, were sentenced to death for drug related crimes in the last three years.

Marijuana and shabu-shabu are commonly sold in tiny packages for only Rp 10,000 (US$1.17) each.

Police recently raided the penitentiary, arresting 11 inmates for alleged involvement in drug dealing and seized 69 packages of marijuana and 250 grams of shabu-shabu.

They later declared five of the inmates to be suspects and the remaining six prisoners, witnesses in the case.

The five inmates were Marwan Abdullah, 45, believed to be the group leader; Ridwan Sidik, 28, Jupri Ibrahim, 28, Irwandi Ibrahim, 30, and Damiri Gultom, 40.

One of the five suspects talked to The Jakarta Post about the drug deals that went on in the penitentiary.

The inmate, who asked for anonymity, said that drugs within the prison were sold by word of mouth.

"But transactions with people outside the penitentiary were directly handled by our leader, Marwan. He contacted the buyers via his cell phone," he said.

The penitentiary's visiting room is a favorite place for drug transactions between prisoners, and outsiders who pretend to be their relatives or friends.

Although the room is guarded by two officers -- one inside and another behind the door -- the transactions can still be conducted freely.

Last month, the penitentiary's guards arrested a woman, who claimed to be visiting her boyfriend. They found a gram of putaw hidden in her sandal.

But the woman is the only supplier to have been arrested. Many drug suppliers are believed to still be operating in the penitentiary.

The penitentiary warden Jejen Zaenal HD admitted to the possibility of collusion between the prison guards and inmates.

"We would not hesitate to fire the prison guards if we found them cooperating with inmates in drug transactions," Jejen told the Post, adding that he had already fired two guards for their involvement in drug deals.

He claimed that the penitentiary's methods for detecting drugs -- such as the body searches of visitors and inmates -- had failed to curb the drug business.

He said that he had asked the National Narcotics Body to assist the penitentiary by providing sniffer dogs but it had not responded yet.

In the meantime the inmates are free to continue with their business.