JAKARTA, Indonesia — The recent escape of four foreign inmates who tunneled their way out of Kerobokan Prison, a high-security facility on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, could have been a scene from a Hollywood movie.

But there is plenty of other drama within the walls of the prison — just a stone’s throw from some of Asia’s most exclusive beach resorts — and in many of Indonesia’s hundreds of other penitentiaries.

Prisons are overcrowded and have far too few guards. Corrupt staff members provide wealthier inmates with drugs, outings and even prostitutes, say analysts who have studied the corrections system. And guards have been accused of complicity in some escapes and incompetence in others, including the one at Kerobokan, which has become the latest symbol of the system’s many woes.

“It sadly does reflect the dysfunction,” said Leopold Sudaryono, an Indonesian doctoral scholar in criminology at Australian National University.

In the Kerobokan breakout, which was discovered on the morning of June 19, four men dug a 50-foot tunnel under the prison’s walls in an open courtyard and fled into the tropical night.

Mr. Said, Mr. Iliev and the two other inmates tunneled out of the prison from an open courtyard, the authorities said.Credit…Nyoman Budhiana/Antara Foto, via Reuters (retrieved from nytimes.com)

Two of the prisoners — Dimitar Nikolov Iliev, 43, of Bulgaria, who was convicted last year of data theft, and Sayed Mohammed Said, 31, of India, who was serving a sentence for drug smuggling — were captured less than a week later in East Timor, which borders Indonesia.

But despite an extensive manhunt, the two others are still at large: Tee Kok King, 50, a Malaysian drug convict, and Shaun Edward Davidson, a 33-year-old Australian. Mr. Davidson had already made headlines in his home country last September, when he was sentenced to a year in prison for using a false passport and visa documents on Bali, a popular destination for Australians.

Officials say the two men probably had help, both inside and outside the prison. Mr. Sudaryono said the escape was further evidence that Indonesia’s prison system is ill-equipped for its most basic tasks.

“The corrections service has three main functions: security to keep those detained in a secure environment, rehabilitation and inmate services,” Mr. Sudaryono said. “The recent prison break reconfirms that the corrections department is incapacitated to perform those functions, particularly the first one.”

Indonesia’s top prison official, I Wayan K. Dusak, head of the Directorate General of Corrections, acknowledged in an interview that the Kerobokan guards had failed in their duties, calling them “weak watchers.”

But he also noted that the prison’s resources, like that of the system nationwide, are stretched well beyond normal capacity. Built to house 323 prisoners, Kerobokan holds nearly 1,400. And on the night of the breakout, only five guards were on duty at the entire complex, he said.

By The New York Times

Indonesia’s prisons have an official capacity of 130,000 prisoners but house more than 228,000, Mr. Dusak said. Nationally, there is supposed to be one guard for every 20 inmates, but in reality it is one for every 65, he added.

“We have issues of quality and quantity” where guards are concerned, Mr. Dusak said. “There’s no training for them when they are hired. Some carry guns but don’t know how to use them.”

Indonesia has seen many prison escapes and riots over the years. In May, hundreds of inmates broke out of an overcrowded prison on the island of Sumatra. In June, flooding caused a wall to collapse at another Sumatra prison, allowing dozens to escape.

Kerobokan was the scene of another notorious breakout in 1999, when prisoners set fire to their mattresses and overwhelmed panicked guards trying to battle the smoke and flames. Nearly 300 inmates escaped.

Mr. Dusak blames the overcrowding on Indonesia’s judicial system, and many analysts agree. In 2009, the government introduced mandatory three-year prison sentences for using narcotics. About half the country’s inmates are drug offenders, Mr. Dusak said.

In addition, nearly 29,000 Indonesians are serving long prison sentences for nonviolent crimes like pickpocketing and gambling, according to data from the Directorate General of Corrections.

Built to house 323 prisoners, Kerobokan Prison holds nearly 1,400. Just five guards were on duty the night of the June breakout, Indonesia’s top corrections official said.Credit…Made Nagi/European Pressphoto Agency

“The punitive attitude among Indonesian society is high, and judges follow that,” said Adrianus Meliala, an Indonesian criminologist.

Gatot Goei, program director of the Jakarta-based Center for Detention Studies, said that nearly 90 percent of Indonesians convicted of a felony offense are sent to prison, as opposed to being given a suspended sentence or fine. The prison population has grown by 15,000 to 20,000 per year since 2007, Mr. Goei said.

Some experts are lobbying the government to revoke the mandatory minimum sentences for drug users, giving judges the option of sentencing them to rehabilitation. Mr. Dusak, who is scheduled to retire this month, agreed that the system would improve if drug users and others convicted of minor crimes were spared prison time.

“There really are no ‘medium security inmates’ in Indonesia,” he said. “So murderers and drug dealers are placed in with drug users and petty thieves.”

Experts have also proposed large budget increases for the corrections department, whose prison guards, on average, earn only about $300 a month.

That could help explain guards’ susceptibility to bribery, and the chaos behind prison walls. At Kerobokan Prison, inmates with money — often foreigners — regularly pay staff members to deliver drugs and alcohol, escort them on daytime excursions to Bali’s beaches and bring prostitutes into the prison, according to Kathryn Bonella, author of “Hotel Kerobokan: The Shocking Story of Bali’s Most Notorious Jail.” Other analysts who have studied the prison system have described similar examples of corruption.

“I don’t think there’s any great attempt to reform the prisons — they are packing them in like sardines,” Ms. Bonella said.

By: Joe Cochrane
Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/19/world/asia/indonesia-prisons-bali-kerobokan.html