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After the Brawl is Over

Calm Returns to Baliís Kerobokan Prison After 5-Day Violent Takeover by Inmates

(2/26/2012) Bali’s notorious Kerobokan prison was regaining some degree of normalcy on Saturday, February 25, 2012, after five days of rioting that saw the inmates take full control of the facility, sending guards and prison staff scampering for safety outside the prison walls.

The Bali Post reports 37 members of the press were allowed a 10-minute tour of the prison on Saturday, but were forbidden from interviewing any of the inmates.

The interior of the prison suffered significant damage during the siege. The administrative offices of the prison had been gutted by fire, including the office of the prison’s warden. Also destroyed by fire were the areas used for prison visits.

Reporters also saw heavy damage in other parts of the penitentiary. Most windows were broken. The buildings used to house prisoners, however, were left largely unscathed, suffering minimum damage.

After five days of violent standoff with police and prison officials, the visiting reporters witnessed the prisoners engaged in team-building games of physical challenge and group lectures. Prison officials said the contests and classes were being staged to restore "psychological calm" among the prisoners.

While some prisoners have been relocated to other jails in Bali and Java, many prisoners are resisting efforts to place them in new prisons, claiming such a move would require significant and unwanted adaptation to a new living environment.

A special team comprised of representatives of the Bali Police, the Udayana Military Command and other stakeholders has been established to review security and management of Bali’s largest prison. Both the prison's warden and head of security were dismissed from their jobs during the course of the riots.

As a precautionary measure, 250 police personnel are still on stand-by outside the prison. At the height of the prison riot, 1,000 police were called to help quell the violence.

With more than 1,000 inmates, the Kerobokan prison serves 300% more prisoners than for which it was originally designed. There are 60 foreign prisoners housed at the jail. Counted among the 60 prisoners are the 12 Australians known as “The Bali 12” – including two Australian sitting on death row awaiting execution.

The start of the melee is traced to an altercation between two prisoners and an ensuing knife battle that sent at least two Indonesian prisoners to hospital. Later, in the seige that lasted several days, two more prisoners were taken to hospital with injuries suffered in battles with police and at least one police office was also injured. Some reports say the wounded prisoners suffered bullet wounds, denied by police who insist the men were injured by broken glass.

The Jakarta Globe quotes a security official from the Justice Ministry, saying: “We are in control of the prison. The situation has returned to normal. Prisoners are following our orders. I can confirm that no prisoner escaped during the riots.“

Reporters making a quick tour of the prison on Saturday saw groups of prisoners cleaning soot from walls damaged by fires and removing trash and debris from the grounds. Another group of some 500 prisoners were in a main hall of the prison engaged in group songs and dance, part of a “trauma recovery program” organized by prison authorities.

During the five days police tried to storm the prison only to be driven back by angry prisoners wielding stones. Police were able to retake control of the prison on Friday.

14 foreign prisoners were briefly evacuated, only to be returned on the weekend to Kerobokan when they refused to serve their sentences in alternate jails.

The overcrowded jail is also home to 125 female inmates and 11 Indonesian children.

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[Death Row at Bali’s Kerobokan Prison]

[Welcome to the Hotel Kerobokan (II)]

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[Welcome to the Hotel Kerobokan (I)]