Indonesian Prisons

Jun 9th, 2010, in IM Posts, Opinion, by

Management of prisons vis a vis human rights obligations and the life of a woman on remand.


In Indonesia, the Constitution (Undang-Undang Dasar 1945) acknowledges at least 15 human rights principles:

  • self-determination (Preamble and article 1),
  • citizenship (article 26),
  • equality before the law (article 27),
  • work (article 27),
  • decent life (article 27),
  • association (article 28),
  • express an opinion (article 28),
  • religion (article 29),
  • national defense (article 30),
  • education (article 31),
  • social welfare (article 33),
  • social security (article 34),
  • independent judiciary (elucidation of articles 24 and 25),
  • preserve cultural traditions (elucidation of article 32),
  • and preserve local language (elucidation of article 31)

Indonesia is also an elected member of United Nations Human Rights Council, but the way it manages its prisons is horrific.

Someone I know (who is a university graduate) is in prison (on the island of Java) since March 12, 2010. She hasn’t been sentenced yet after three court appearances. She is charged with financial fraud. (she worked for a financial institution, her boss got away with using a ponzi scheme and blamed my sister in law who was promptly arrested)

She tells me that she was beaten up by female guards for being "too arrogant" and not "submissive", that food brought in by family members is taken away by the female guards, and that her cell mates (women) only allow her to eat the left overs from their plate.

When I visited her last week we spent too much time in the visiting room, and after I left, my sister in law was again beaten up by the female guards for talking too much to a BULE (westerner).

I paid 1 million rupiah to the guards so that she would be allowed to use a mobile phone. After three days, her mobile phone was taken away.

Turning now to the judge: he blatantly told the lawyer that he wants 35 million rupiah, while the "jaksa" (state prosecutor) wanted 5 million rupiah.

When is Indonesia, the country I live in and that I love, going to do something about the horrible conditions in its prisons?

At this point, the Indonesian government leadership seem to be wearing their best tuxedos while smiling meaningfully to look good on paper and to make strong political statements that Indonesia is a country where human rights are guaranteed and respected. We, the people, must make sure that those are not killers’ smiles and torturers’ faux friendliness.


18 Comments on “Indonesian Prisons”

  1. avatar Hans says:
    June 9th, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    The fact that they start cleaning up is probably ok. wonder if they would better start with politicians and the judiciary. do not get how someone who himself is corrupt is to adjudicate or legislate for others who only hangs with the system. As I understand these Indonesian courts one of the reasons why Australians have become very acidic in Indonesia in recent years, after their daughters and sons ended up in their courts and prisons. Now it so that the last idiot is not born yet, so this will continue Long-term future, then you’d better hope that we ourselves do not fall into their legal systems, which no one can be sure not to. for it would surely be profitable for everyone involved except us.

  2. avatar Chris says:
    June 9th, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Dirk,

    I’m really sorry to hear about your sister-in-law’s situation. I have two questions and a comment:

    1. What can readers do to practically help her, other than rob a bank (or start a ponzi scheme)?

    2. Where is the boss now – Singapore, Mallorca, Rio? Is the only difference between him and your relative (apart from responsibility) that he could afford to bribe/pay off the police?

    You wrote:

    In Indonesia, the Constitution (Undang-Undang Dasar 1945) acknowledges at least 15 human rights principles…

    The constitution also says that legal punishment should not be cruel and degrading.

    When in 2006 public canings were introduced in Aceh, some people questioned whether this was a violation of the constitution. When you see the picture of a man after he has been caned, it seems particularly questionable.

    The official response (in effect):

    Aceh has special autonomy, so can create its own laws and punishments; they do not have to totally follow the constitution.

  3. avatar Ross says:
    June 9th, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    The sooner they start hanging corruptos, the better. Mind, the hangman will be a busy fellow!

  4. avatar madrotter says:
    June 9th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    knew a few bule’s that spend time in jail here, the worst is when you’re in police custody, one guy i knew was in a tiny cell with 16 others and a bucket to shit and piss for 3 months before being moved to the big house, next to his cell they had their torture room where it went on for 24 hours a day, bambu under fingernails, cutting off fingers, putting chairlegs on your foot and then sitting on that chair with 4 guys, ofcourse electricity mostly on genitals, forcing people to masturbate, you name it they do it… i’ve heard stories from indonesians too, how the pigs would tie them down, put on loud house music, smoke a lot of meth and then torture, they do it to kids too fxcking pigs…
    i remember chipping in with some of the english teachers here when one of them was in police custody, we would buy one liter waterbottles and fill ‘em with wodka so at least the guy had something in that hell hole….

    also knew a canadian guy who overstayed his visa for 8 months, they caught him at jakarta airport and he spend half a year in what they call quarantine. he was a big guy but looked like a broomstick when he came out, all they get is a small bowl of white rice and one egg a day, you’re quiet inthere cause they’ll beat the shit out of you for nothing. he told me there were people there from india, pakistan countries like that who were there for 10 years and more, nobody to bail ‘em out, some of them for overstaying just a few months…

    i’m sorry for your sister in law man, hope you can get her out soon!

  5. avatar dragonwall says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Write what you like, speak what you want and at the end of the day help is far away.

    I didn’t know who you are but if you need to know how to deal with this problem let me know by sending it to my email and I will teach you how to deal with those bastards.

  6. avatar BrotherMouzone says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Dirk, I understand your desire to help your sister-in-law and the way she is being treated sounds like it is utterly shameful.

    I just hope that in the post above you have adequately disguised both her identity and your own. Discussing the poor treatment she is receiving and planned bribes of state officials on an open internet forum could easily make things snowball.

  7. avatar David says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    BM, I doubt it, if it’s in English nobody cares. Generally. This could have been in the JakartaPost and nobody (who matters) would care. Because nobody who matters reads the jakartapost, let alone this site.

  8. avatar Dragonwall says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Even if it is in English in the Jakarta Post it would be even more prominent to be noticeable by foreign Embassy to look into the affairs.

    Or perhaps there were something concrete that makes it undeniable.

  9. avatar deta says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Because nobody who matters reads the jakartapost, let alone this site.

    Because they already read “www.indonesiadoesn’tmatter.com”

  10. avatar David says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Nope, they read Kompas, etc

  11. avatar BrotherMouzone says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    @ Patung

    BM, I doubt it, if it’s in English nobody cares. Generally. This could have been in the JakartaPost and nobody (who matters) would care. Because nobody who matters reads the jakartapost, let alone this site.

    If this were just a regular rant about the government then I’d agree with you. But if were planning to bribe a judge I would be wary of even discussing it in a pub with a stranger, let alone sticking it out there on the interweb for thousands of strangers to see.

    But maybe I’m overcautious about this sort of thing…

  12. avatar realest says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Rp 5 million/month afaik can get u a private spacious cell with TV, pillows and a fan. The going monthly rate is around 1 million for protection+good supply of cigarettes, 3 million for better food + cell phone and 5 million for luxury. Best of lucks then.

  13. avatar ET says:
    June 13th, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    @ Patung

    BM, I doubt it, if it’s in English nobody cares. Generally. This could have been in the JakartaPost and nobody (who matters) would care. Because nobody who matters reads the jakartapost, let alone this site.

    I’m not so sure nobody who matters reads this site. You probably still remember the polemic between Dragonwall and Yusril Ihza Mahendra.

  14. avatar David says:
    June 13th, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Yes, that was the one exception I could think of, there may have been others I’ve forgotten about even. I still find the whole thing surreal, that a former minister of Immigration, and then Law, and then the State Secretary, wanted to debate me about Islamic law. But by that time he was a has-been with some ludicrous ambition to run for president.

  15. avatar Pena Budaya says:
    June 24th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I feel sorry to Dirk & his family after reading this news. Does your in defence lawyer do anything about this? Prison in Indonesia is really though, but good defence lawyer should have clue about this and help his/her clients!!

    Actually this reminds me of one story from Locked Up Aboard series from NG – Chris Parnell who was locked up in Indonesian prison. It is amazing Chris Parnell is manage to survive and maintain to be positive after all experience that he has gone through with Indonesian authorities and prison.

    Is it possible to record all those crimes committed by prison’s authorities via hidden cameras or tape? Then ask national tv channels to broadcast the records..

  16. avatar mets says:
    September 19th, 2010 at 7:32 am

    @ David – past politicians in Indo are never really has been’s their fingers are always still in many pies….try and depersonalise your arguments before there is kick backs for ur sister in law…as I agree with BrotherM

  17. avatar David says:
    September 19th, 2010 at 8:47 am

    My sister in law is a nun and has never been in prison! Probably you mean Dirk.

  18. avatar Joe Eichmann says:
    June 15th, 2011 at 1:15 am

    I just wanted to say how bad i feel for those people in those hell holes and i will say a prayer for them i hope the best for them



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