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Kerobokan Prison strives to eradicate illegal levies

In the aftermath of last week’s riot, which saw the prison being torched and its warden and chief security officer fired, Kerobokan Prison Authority marked the resumption of normal operations this week by declaring its commitment to eradicate various illegal levies previously imposed upon the inmates and their relatives.

The illegal levies have been blamed for rising levels of discrimination inside the prison, where guards provided preferential treatment to inmates who could pay a premium. The discrimination was cited by the inmates as one of the reasons behind the massive riot.

On Tuesday, several banners hung above the prison’s main gate welcoming relatives of the inmates who were about to visit their loved ones following the resumption of the prison’s visiting hours.

One banner read, ‘Thank you for not giving anything [to the guards]” and another read, “Help us by not giving anything to the guards”, while a third one read, “Joint pledge of inmates and guards: we have changed”.

The visitors indeed spotted several changes on that first post-riot visiting day. Made Arka, a former inmate who wanted to visit his jailed friend, felt strange when the guards at the gate didn’t ask him for money. Arka recalled that previously he had to pay Rp 5,000 to the guards at the gate and another Rp 5,000 to the tamping (inmates’ coordinator) inside the visiting room.

Similar banners were hung in the visiting room, the roof of which was still marred by a huge hole caused by the riot. The room was not as crowded as usual. This was possibly due to the new visiting policy issued by the new warden. According to the new policy, a visitor is allowed a maximum of 30 minutes to see an inmate.

During the visiting time, the prison’s new security chief, Agus Miardi, repeatedly made announcements through the prison’s speakers.

“Thank you for your visit. On this occasion, I would like to inform you that all the inmates and the guards have pledged to change. We hope that you will help us to do so. Please, don’t give anything to our guards,” he announced.

After the 30 minutes had elapsed, the guards immediately announced that the visiting time had finished and around 50 visitors were asked to leave. “This is very unusual; it made me feel strange that I didn’t have to pay anything to visit. And the guards seemed very friendly. This is extraordinary,” Arka said.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Ni Nyoman Dinda, whose husband has been in Kerobokan for more than two years. “This is the first time I didn’t have to pay anything for visiting. I hope this policy will not be a temporary one,” she said.

Not all visitors were happy with the new policy, however. Christine Winarni Puspayanti, the wife of Martin Eric Stephen of the infamous Bali Nine, said she was disappointed by the maximum time limit for visiting.

“The new duration is too brief. I usually meet him for several hours [at a time],” she said, adding that she visited her husband on a daily basis.

Kerobokan Prison’s newly installed warden, I Gusti Ngurah Wiratna, admitted that eradicating illegal levies would not be an easy thing to do.

“But we will try, and I invite the public and members of the press to closely monitor this process of transformation,” he said.

A senior official at the Bali office of the Law and Human Rights Ministry, Piyadi, said the ministry would be keeping an eye on the prison’s new policy. He warned that guards found of extorting inmates would face dire consequences. “We will punish them. They could be fired.”