“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

Australian prisoners kept in 'inhumane' conditions in Indonesia, says jail chief

Kerobokan Jail
BALI'S Kerobokan Jail is now so over-crowded that is "inhumane' and in some cell blocks the prisoners barely have enough room to sleep, the jail's Governor said today.

Governor Siswanto said that the 323-inmate capacity of Kerobokan jail, where the Bali Nine - Andrew Chan, Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Renae Lawrence, Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush, Martin Stephens and Myuran Sukumaranwas - are kept, now stands at 1034 prisoners.

"It is 300 % overcapacity. There are a lot of inmates and detainees, they have to push each other to sleep and it is inhumane," Mr Siswanto said during Indonesia's Corrections Day celebration at the jail.

He said that based on national standards the ideal capacity would be about 357 prisoners.

"Now it is very, very overcrowded and it could impact both the rehabilitation and security system."

Mr Siswanto said on each shift only 11 guards was responsible for the 1034 prisoners.

But so far authorities have failed to buy land to build a new prison.

Kerobokan jail is currently home to 12 Australians – Schapelle Corby, the Bali 9, Angus McCaskill and Michael Sacatides - serving sentences ranging from seven years to the death penalty and all on drugs charges.

Mr Siswanto’s comments come as prisoners got a day away from the monotony of normal prison life yesterday as a band played and guards and prisoners sang karaoke and danced together.

The festivities were part of the national Corrections Day celebrations.

One day after his 18-year sentence for methamphetamine trafficking was handed down, former Sydney man Michael Sacatides chatted amicably with members of the Bali 9. But he would not comment on the sentence.

Members of the Bali 9, who are on death row and with their final appeal decisions pending, along with others serving life sentences, also attended and appeared in good spirits but none of the Australians graced the stage or dance floor to show off their prowess.

And Schapelle Corby, who is serving a 20-year sentence, did not attend the celebrations at all. Corby is waiting on the outcome of her plea for clemency to the Indonesian President. The plea, on humanitarian grounds, seeks clemency on the basis of her mental illness.

Lodged one year ago there is no time frame on when a decision will be made and prison authorities at yesterday’s celebration said they had heard nothing.

Taswem Tarib, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry chief in Bali, said that if Corby was granted clemency and a sentence cut then the ministry would conform with regulations regarding remissions and parole.

"Based on our correctional regulation, inmates who have served a long term and behaved well will get their rights for remission and parole," Mr Tarib said.

Other Australian prisoners – Bali Nine members serving life sentences - are also hoping that this year brings them some good news. Many have recently lodged applications to have their life terms reduced to a determinant sentence of 15 or 20 years.

Under Indonesian law, life term prisoners have the right to apply for reduced determined sentences of not less than 15 years, after they have served six years of their sentence and been of good behaviour.

If granted, this would then allow them to qualify for yearly remissions which can be up to eight months off for each year served. Those on life sentences are not allowed to have remissions.

A decision on the Bali Nine applications is not expected until later this year but authorities say it is most likely they will all receive the reduction.

Source: Daily Telegraph, April 27, 2011
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