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Indonesian prison caught in 'luxury' cell scandal

Conditions at prisons in Indonesia are often poor and overcrowded, but officials at a prison in West Java have been arrested for allegedly providing "luxury" facilities for prisoners who are able to pay a price.

A room with air conditioning, a television, a large refrigerator and a private bathroom sounds more like a description of a hotel than a jail cell. 

But at Sukamiskin prison in the Indonesian province of West Java, prison officials allegedly provided these luxuries to rich and powerful inmates, who reportedly paid between $19,000 and $35,000 (€15,000–30,000) for special treatment. Some prisoners even received keys, and were able to come and go as they pleased.

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After a raid on Sunday conducted by Indonesia's anti-graft body, the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), several inmates and prison officials were arrested over these "luxury" prison cells.

According to KPK spokesman, Febri Diansyah, the KPK seized money and vehicles, which were reportedly given as bribes to the warden of the prison, Wahid Husen. Husen was arrested along with a member of his staff. 

"KPK investigators have seized nearly 300 million rupiah ($20,700) in cash and also seized documents of purchase and receipts for cars, along with two cars given to Wahid Husen."

During the raid, the KPK team had trouble opening some of the cells, because the prisoners could control the locks.

"Investigators could not open the doors because the cell locks were suspected of being held by prisoners," KPK spokesman Diansyah told DW.

Sukamiskin penitentiary is a special prison mainly holding former high-ranking officials and businessmen convicted of corruption.

Indonesien Sukamiskin Gefängnis in Bandung (Detik.com)

Investigators at Sukamiskin seized cash and receipts for luxury items

Not an isolated incident

Apart from the luxury cells, Sukamiskin prison officials had also reportedly been giving preferential treatment to certain prisoners.

Last year, Tempo magazine in Indonesia published a report revealing that some prisoners could leave Sukamiskin's premises without being escorted by officers.

By using medical appointment permits issued by Sukamiskim, some inmates convicted of corruption were found out not only meeting their relatives but also shopping.

Read more: Opinion: Indonesia executions are a mockery of justice

Special treatment in prisons is common knowledge in Indonesia. Rich and powerful inmates are able to buy luxuries, including time out of prison.

In 2010, Indonesian media reported that tax official Gayus Tambunan, who was serving a jail term for corruption, was seen at an international tennis tournament on the resort island of Bali.

In another case several years ago, it was reported that the since-executed Indonesian drug convict Freddy Budiman, was often visited by his lover at Cipinang prison in the capital Jakarta.

Budiman's lover said there was a "love cubicle" at Cipinang that provided a space for sex and drug use. In interviews with local media, she said that the room belonged to the head officer of the penitentiary.

A culture of corruption?

The non-governmental organization, Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), said that the Indonesian government must act firmly against such cases and dismiss all prison officers working at facilities that deal with bribery.

"All officers in prison should be dismissed, because surely they know there are cells with such facilities," ICW's Emerson Yuntho told DW.

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Yuntho added that special prisons for corruption convicts are unnecessary.

"Special prisons are not necessary, because there is striking discrimination like what happened in Sukamiskin," he said, adding that it would be better to imprison corruption convicts in cells with other prisoners such as thieves and murderers.

"Other prisons have overcapacity problems and meanwhile the corruptors' prison in Sukamiskin is luxurious."

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