|Bali's Kerobokan Prison|
MATTHEW Norman was just 18 years old when he agreed to act as a drug mule in exchange for $15,000.
The Sydney teen hoped to buy a new car with the money he would earn, but instead his life changed forever after he and eight other Australians were arrested for drug smuggling in Bali.
Along with fellow Australian ‘lifer’ Si Yi Chen, the two spend their days hoping they will one day be free from Bali’s Korobokan Prison where they’ve spent the past 12 years.
It’s a slim hope given “life means life” in Indonesia and the reality is they face dying in the crowded third world jail as old men.
Kerobokan holds a creepy fascination for most Australians.
And while we can only imagine what life is like there, a TV crew has gained unfettered access to the prison to reveal what really goes on once the cell doors close.
ABC’s Indonesia bureau chief and former South East Asia correspondent Samantha Hawley and her crew spent a week filming inside Kerobokan.
In Foreign Correspondent which airs tonight, she reveals a prison plagued by a range of issues, but discovers that somehow despite all the chaos things “just work”.
In Kerobokan, the cells are so crowded, the doors struggle to close.
Originally designed to hold 300 prisoners, it now holds four times that many with chronic under funding and drug use remaining major problems for authorities.
There are just four guards for 1300 inmates and it’s hot and humid.
Along with the loss of privacy is the constant jostling for space.
Around 90 per cent of the inmates are Indonesian who shared crowded cells, the rest are foreigners who pay a premium for more space.
While some inmates turn to God, art or games to cope, others turn to meth, a huge issue given a large number are in prison for drug-related offences.
‘PIECE OF PARADISE’
Along with producer Matt Davis and cameraman Phil Hemingway, Hawley was allowed access to a number of prisoners.
Some were unwilling to talk, but others including Norman and Chen, wanted to share their story.
Norman showed the crew his tiny cell, which he calls his “little piece of paradise.”
He also reveals the toll the past 12 years have taken on him and how his life changed forever when he agreed to act as a drug mule
“Now no one knows me as me,” he tells Hawley.
“I’m not Matthew Norman. I’m just Matthew Bali Nine.”
Despite living in overcrowded conditions, Norman remains hopeful that he will be granted clemency and the chance to prove he is a changed man.
“You look at the sky and you see an aeroplane and you think, one day I hope,” he tells Hawley.
“We don’t know what tomorrow brings.”
Hawley told news.com.au she hoped to show how much both Australians had reformed since being inside.
But she said despite being model prisoners, the two faced never being released.
“In Indonesia, life means life,” she said.
“They remain hopeful the Indonesian President will grant them clemency.”
She said the pair remained resilient and this episode of Foreign Correspondent looks at how the human spirit prevails, despite apparent hopelessness.
Hawley told news.com.au her team was given the special access for a reason.
“The access we were given surprised us,” she said.
Hawley said the crew was granted the access by the Minister of Corrections in Jakarta who wanted to highlight that despite the terrible conditions the prison functioned.
“It’s very underfunded and horribly overcrowded yet it does function,” she said.
“It’s a third world prison, but these people are treated with humanity.”
Despite only having four guards at any time, Hawley said Kerobokan had prisoner led control where inmates exercised authority over cell blocks.
She said authorities spent just $1.50 per day on prisoners’ food and while foreigners weren’t treated differently, they often had access to money.
“If you have money, money counts because that can buy food,” she said.
And while the crew was conscious of being inside a prison, they didn’t feel unsafe.
Hawley said she also left the prison with a heavy heart because while she knew she could always leave, others were stuck behind the walls, some forever.
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Source: news.au.com, Debra Killalea, June 13, 2017
🔎 Related content:
- Schapelle’s nightmare is over, but the Bali Nine’s continues, May 28, 2017
- Australian barrister Colin McDonald is examining a new legal pathway to free the Bali Nine, June 1, 2017
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