02/22/2012, 00.00
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Overcrowding and embezzlement set off riot in Bali prison

by Mathias Hariyadi
Brawl among inmates broke out at dawn, followed by arson. Police and soldiers move in to restore calm. Some prisoners are wounded by gunshots; a section of the facility is damaged. Built for 300 people, it currently holds more than a thousand prisoners.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Police and soldiers restored calm in Kerobokan prison in Denpasar, capital of the Indonesian province of Bali, after a brawl broke out among inmates followed by arson.

According to a preliminary report, a number of prisoners were wounded by gunshots and a section of the facility was damaged by fire. The prison is known for its overcrowding. Local media also blame the riot on the mistreatment of some prisoners by guards and favours provided to others.

Bali Police Chief Totoy Herawan Indra met a delegation of inmates to discuss the reasons behind the overnight violence as well as their living conditions inside the facility. "They pointed the finger at favours by the guards for some 'special' prisoners," the police chief said.

Indonesia experts note that favours for special prisoners in the country's prisons is commonplace. Giving some inmates the opportunity of meeting relatives without limitations of time or schedule is one example. Another is granting the richer prisoners an unauthorised furlough to enjoy time outside.

However, the 'special treatment' most of time consists of letting in goods like food, air conditioners, and decent mattresses for wealthier prisoners who can pay off the guards.

In Kerobokan, a small number of inmates can even leave their cells "for external medical treatment".

Kerobokan is Bali's best-known prison. It was built to house 300 people but it currently holds more than a thousand.

Today's incident is the latest in a series. A few days ago, a prisoner was stabbed.

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