News / Asia

Drugs, Corruption Rampant in Indonesian Prisons

Inmates look out from inside a burnt down office at Tanjung Gusta prison following a prison riot in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, July 12, 2013.
Inmates look out from inside a burnt down office at Tanjung Gusta prison following a prison riot in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, July 12, 2013.
Sex, drugs and even maids are all available in Indonesian prisons for the right price.

This week salacious admissions from model Vanny Rossyane have reignited debate about the extraordinary privileges granted to wealthy Indonesian prisoners.

The model, 22, said she was granted access to a private room in prison where she would have sex and smoke crystal methamphetamine with her boyfriend, Freddy Budiman, who was being held on death-row.

Budiman was sentenced to death this July after he was found guilty of trying to smuggle more than a million ecstasy pills from China.

Already in Jakarta’s Cipinang prison on drug charges, the 37-year-old allegedly ran his narcotics business on five cell phones from inside prison.

It’s not the first time such claims have emerged. Over recent years, prisoners have been caught with everything from flat screen TVs to having cosmetic surgery in their cells.

Anything for a price

Leopold Sudaryono, the law coordinator at the Asia Foundation in Jakarta, says that it's common to pay for basic goods in prison.

“I think that since the resources are scarce, they [inmates] need to pay for the resources like food, even for the mattresses, you’ve got to pay rent for that," he said. "You have to pay for everything if you can afford and if you don’t have family support you need to work inside serving other inmates.”

Indonesian prisons operate like a complex business ecosystem, sustained by corruption, overcrowding, mismanagement and poor resources.

With prison guards earning about $300 a month, there is an incentive to make money on the side by allowing inmates to have cell phones and other luxuries.

Sudaryono said the arrangement is mutually beneficial and actually can help maintain stability within grossly overcrowded jails.

Today there are around 160,000 inmates across the country and the Indonesian jails that house them are struggling to accommodate - let alone rehabilitate - the ballooning influx.

Lack of resources

Sudaryono said in the most overcrowded prisons, there is one guard per 900 prisoners.

“Actually the problem of overcrowding is not unique to Indonesia or other developing countries," he said. "Actually countries like the U.S. and Australia also have problems with overcrowding, but the problem is in Indonesia, the rate is just so extraordinary. I mean we can have rates like 600-700 percent overcrowding in a number of prisons.”

This month more than 200 inmates managed to escape after rioting in the overcrowded Tanjung Gusta Prison in Sumatra. More than 100 inmates, including four convicted terrorists, are still on the loose.

A week later, 12 inmates managed to escape from a jail in Batam.

Analysts say such incidents are examples of how deep the system problems run. They say improving prisons will requires leadership, increased funds and a serious push to streamline the bureaucracy.

Ali Aranoval, director of the Center for Detention Studies in Jakarta said the government should also put drug users in rehabilitation centers rather than jail. He said that drug dealers and users account for nearly 60,000 of the total 160,000 prisoners.

He argued that putting small time users in rehab would ease the overcapacity problems, curb bribery and prevent even more people from getting addicted to drugs in jail.

Selling drugs, he said, is more lucrative on the inside than out.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Michael J Freeman from: Italy
August 01, 2013 10:42 AM
Same in UK and prisons all the world because the dealers inside still carry on dealing...Germany has a moratorium on cannabis is this is a voluntary scheme where the government get their observation data and prisoners love...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs