The Rottenness in Indonesian Prison: A confession by Surya Anta


JAYAPURA, — Surya Anta revealed the rot behind Indonesian prisons. He was the first Indonesian to be charged with treason article and sentenced to prison by an Indonesian court since being arrested in late 2019 and then released in May 2020.

The rottenness of the Indonesian prison he witnessed, experienced, and lived was revealed through a thread on his personal Twitter account on Sunday (12/7/2020) with the title A Story When We Entered the Salemba Detention Center.

With permission from Surya, the story was re-issued by Suara Papua.

“The story when we entered the Salemba Detention Center. A little story in the picture. A thread”.


I, Ambros Mulait, Dano Tabuni, Isay Wenda, and Charles Kossay stayed for one month with 420 inmates in the Shelter Room or a period of environmental recognition. (Caption correction in pictures 18 November – 19 December 2019).

This is the condition of the Prisoners in a period of environmental recognition before the Covid pandemic, Salemba Detention Center in Central Jakarta. When the Covid pandemic begun (before we were free) this room or barracks was empty because the detention center did not accept new prisoners.

Methamphetamine ‘Pharmacy’ in the Prison

I was once yelled by a methamphetamine bargainer from the 2nd floor of block A or Block B, “uncle curly, do you like methamphetamine? Or Marijuana?” Then I answered back “No, I don’t want methamphetamine or Marijuana, I want a f*ck!” … and then the bargainer laughed.

Previously, I had participated in discussions over prison capacity. While in Salemba, I realized what over prison capacity was. The problem is not because of the lacking of prison. That’s a downstream problem, but the problem is that the regulations and the concept from the apparatus are merely captivating people.

These are my sleeping room and Ambros room in Korean shanties. The prisoner’s shanties of the Batak people. Previously I was in Palembang shanties. I moved because of the stress pressure and the noise from the 2nd floor. The old inmates throw spittle and pooped in the Palembang shanties.

There is just one TV in the shelter barracks. If anyone dares to change the channel immediately crowded. These bottles are used to accommodate water for drinking. But the water feels sticky. The prisoners got a sore throat.

To be able to cook noodles and make coffee, you have to “shoot water”. The trick is to put the water in a plastic bottle and then burn it with plastic. Air pollution, so many prisoners are sick. I had a fever and bleeding from the nose.  Hufft…!!! Going to the clinic but the procedure was complicated.

After one month in that barracks. We moved to the down block. We were in block J. Room 18. That was after pressure from our friends outside the prison. Many prisoners and inmates sleep in the hallway because they do not have a ‘ticket’ to the room and pay money weekly for that room. This is the situation in the hallway block.

The five of us were placed in block J of cell room 18 (J18). This cell is made into 3 rooms. 1 room below. 2 rooms above. The upper room behind Dano’s is the “Pharmacy” Room, the methamphetamine saleroom. The prison officers know about this. But I wonder why we were placed in room J18 which has a pharmacy of methamphetamine.

This J18 cell has a lot of mosquitoes because the bottom floor is leaking, full of puddles. They said that this room was once the nicest, but now it is broken. Previously, the one who made this cell was wooden was convicted of dead drugs, Fredy Budiman. So, this room has been a place for methamphetamine transactions.

Prank by State

May 12th is planned for us to be free of assimilation, but it is canceled. Detention Center got a call directly from The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Director of the Penitentiary. We can’t be assimilated because we were prisoners of treason article. After investigating, there is also information that The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights have been pressured by the apparatus and from former officers in the palace circle.

But that’s all the information. The point is we cannot be free of assimilation because the treason article cannot use ministerial regulation of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, we must use Government Regulations number 99. Then I “hold up” the officers so that we can be moved to better cells and blocks. I asked to be moved to block L cell number 2 (L2). And we ask not to pay anything.

Our dear friends have prepared food for us in large quantities. We lobby the officers so that we could eat pork and other foods inside the Salemba detention center. As a result, we entertained ourselves by eating pork together.

This is the situation in Block L cell number 2. Even though it is only two weeks but it is quite good to ‘heal’ the prank we got from the state which is canceled our free assimilation.

Life in prison is not necessarily all borne by the state, because rice, side dishes, water, and Cadong (prison food) are few. Of course, it is not ethical for those who sleep in cells to eat that little ration. The poor prisoner who lives sleeping in the hallway. So, we have to cook and buy-side dishes by ourselves.

We also buy water for ourselves. Also, buy a gallon. If there is electricity damage, we have to pay with our own money. Other prisoners pay for the room and pay weekly money too. We didn’t pay because the prison officers were worried about public pressure about us and also a lobby from friends. So, we don’t sleep in the hallway.

The block doors are locked at 8 p.m, opened before dawn prayer, and closed after the evening assembly. There are three assemblies a day. Morning Assembly at 8 am, afternoon assembly at 1 pm, and night assembly at 8 pm. Occupants of the hall of the building block type 7 often sleep on the roadside of the Prison after the blocked door is opened at dawn.

Worship in the Church

While in Salemba Detention Center, we worshiped at the Bethesda church, the church in the prison. While at the church building is our opportunity to be able to relax, get good air, and good food from the missionary services of Christian and Catholic churches.

In this Bethesda Church, I see the grief of drug prisoners and criminals. Infrequently those who cry not because of past mistakes, the truth was sometimes someone who innocent but was framed so he went to prison. Some of them sought salvation from the destruction of the soul and mind in the House of Worship.

There are indeed many innocent people in prison. And many people who are wrong and evil are not even jailed. But a prison in this state is not a place to heal broken souls, hearts, and minds. The state simplifies the problem by getting people jailed.

The Government and the State are trying to imprison our minds, but history has recorded that the mind cannot be imprisoned. And the country which still imprisons people who fight for their minds is a country that is “poor” democracy. Countries that have not yet matured in overcoming political differences.

Strange but true. The peaceful demonstrations are subject to treason (Aanslagh) articles. The article was created by the colonial Dutch. Whereas Soekarno Hatta, who is proclaimed by the state when the Dutch “came” again, was never arrested under treason article/Aanslagh. I believed there is no kidding while ‘making’ this state by Soekarno Hatta.

Handphone shop and service

How could I documentation this story? Because in prison you could buy, selling and servicing cellphones. Drug business, the business of transferring and receiving remittances, food shanties, buying and selling perfume there, but there isn’t prostitution.  Before it, in 2016 said long-time inmates prostitution exist. The prison officers knew all things that happened but do nothing about it.

I can understand food shanties, cooperatives, and money transfer businesses in prison. Many things have to buy in prison if you want to live decent and healthy. If there was no transfer business there used to be a “plastic money” trick.  Inmates roll money using plastic and then swallowed.

State Ignore Prisoner’s Biological Needs

The biological needs of prisoners and prisoners are also neglected. The prisoners and inmates stole the opportunity in the visiting room to do ‘things ‘ indirect presence. Even though in the visiting room there are many children there. The lust of the prisoners surges they asked to ‘be shaken’ by their partners and also hugs and kisses.

There is also a trick from prisoner partners when visit them. They use a long skirt and pants shattered. Then the girls on their laps, swaying them while hugging. Or the guy hugs while his fingers play in her skirt or pants while hugging. A friend of mine who visited said, “huft… I smell of sperm.”

Prisoners are human not a banana tree. They also need sex. Before Matta Najwa came to Salemba Detention Center, there were toilets and visiting rooms above which could be rented out for sex. But since the inspection. Nothing else. Whereas the state can regulate the room of this sex room with the terms and conditions regulated.

Social Class in Prison

The cost of living in prison is expensive. There are various types of prisoners’ survival, among them are pickpockets, others tear their friends’ pockets with razor blades, electronic services, massages, become tamping (Co-Prisoners), there are also some who have to pay, sell rice, sell drugs, or become a BNN (The Debt Collector) alias, bouncer.

Some of them are prisons scout, kitchens helper for food Cadong (special food for prisoners in prisons), selling coffee, and sending delivery papers or if you have the money you could open a ‘pharmacy’. If there are money and guts, it could become the Block Frontmen (Chairperson of the Block Management) but who most don’t have anything becomes the Corvee (a prisoner maid).

The social class in Prison is very real. Rich inmates, corruptors, for example, can buy rooms in Block O for 50-70 million, including the weekly money. No need to go to a shelter or environmental recognition first as we did for one month. Inmates from other blocks cannot even play with Block O prisoners.

So, in prison, we can see that there are prisoners with dapper-looking and neat clothes, but also we can see even more prisoners whose legs are smashed, they have crotch, their clothes are just like that. Because they have to buy soap, shampoo and washing soap for clothes. Moving sleep, eating scramble.

Well tamping cleanliness and tamping kitchen got little attention even though they are the spearhead table in this prison. Their clothes are dirty. Their bodies are also not clean. Not a few who’s got skin problems. So the food they make is not hygienic. They don’t even have a salary.

When the Prisoners Fighting

If there is a prisoner who fights or owes, it is entered into the Isolation cell block (Block P). Room type 1, which is its contents can be 6 prisoners. Before the Head of Detention Center emptying block P, some prisoners have been isolated there for more than 4 months. Like this friend of mine. There was a police order for him to be put in isolation from the start. He did a demonstration through the Traffic Police Unit. Then he’s invited to meet with that police. They offered him the money worth  3 million. At first, he refuses, but when he was offered 10 million, finally he accepts that offered. Then he was immediately arrested. When he entered Salemba Detention center, there was an order for him to be put in the Isolation cell.

I knew he was wrong. He’s not sincere, but what is the need for the police to make an order so that he can inhabit the Isolation cell for quite a long time? Luckily before Eid Mubarak, the new detention chief decided to vacate all the Isolation cell rooms inhabited by 98 prisoners, if not he could stay there longer.

Corona Pandemic and Prisoners in Salemba Detention Center

Now it’s a matter of Covid-19. The Salemba Detention center is the fastest to lock down from the outside, but the state has never conducted a medical checkup on all prisoners. Even though we were distributed vitamins and masks, there were 4200 prisoners. Don’t know who got hit by Covid-19.

When The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights freed assimilation of public criminal convicts they refused non-criminal prisoners. I agree to reject the assimilation of Corruptors. But what makes the detention center full is drug prisoners. 270 thousand inmates, 70% of them are drug prisoners. We as political prisoners ultimately failed to assimilate.

Our canceling assimilation is strange. Treason’s article is in the Criminal Code, which means general crime. Not a special criminal. However, Government regulation 99 is stated as Special Crimes. Even though the Criminal Code is referred to as a crime against state security, it still states that it is a general crime, not a special crime.

So, when the prison is full and the Covid-19 Pandemic period, the state must to ensure that Prisoners and Prisoners as “Lost Children” and all non-Corruption Prisoners living in prosperity in the Prison can receive assimilation rations. And also don’t have to be complicated by the conditions.

The lost children are people who have no money and are not visited by family. When in a shelter, people who cannot pay OT money, they are thrown into Crocodile shanties.  A Crocodile shanty is right in front of the toilet room. So, if you eat you will face the toilet. You can eat while looking at people defecating.

Some people have already paid OT room, but when he did not pay for the weekly room, he was banished to the Crocodile shanties. Depending on the mood of the lord of the shanties. Our shelter like a jungle. Who is the most powerful? He is the lord of shanties and shelter. Usually backed up by ethnicity and continue to be a Frontman.

So, if you do not have money and guts fight. Detainees cling to the Batak (Korean) gang, Palembang, Lampung, Arek Suroboyo, Barpus (Central West), or the Ambon gang. But of course, the boss of the bosses is the Great Drug Narcotics who can buy anyone. Including buying “troops” and “loyalty”.

Yes, those are stories that I can remember to share with respectable netizens. This photo was taken after Ambros began to help my hair with oil because it had started to dread. The next day we were completely free after living a 9-month sentence in prison.

From the Isolation Room in Mako Brimob to Salemba Detention Center

In Salemba we live with 4200 people. In Mako Brimob Prison, only 6 of us. Previously, the prison was filled with prisoners and Terrorist inmates. After the terrorist incident killed 7 detachment police. The prison is empty. It is said that Ahok was there. Whether true or not. For me, it’s still a mystery.

We were there for seventy-eight days in Mako Brimob. Most of my days, seventy-three days I was in the Isolation room. The police don’t admit that it’s an isolation room. Alright. Clear. My cell is different from the others. The steel door is closed. There is no window toward my friend’s cell. Small ventilation on the back.

On the wall, I saw graffiti that became evident that there had been prisoners who were imprisoned in the cell for a long time. The text of Allah as the direction of Qibla prayer. There is a people’s names wrote on the wall. The police always say that it’s a prisoner’s biological (sex) cell. How come? There are streaks of the moon, etc.

This is the condition of my solitary confinement in Mako Brimob. In front of me is the Head of Sub-Division of State Security of Metro Jaya Policemen, which has now been promoted. He said, “The treason article is a threat of 20 years to a lifetime”. I was down because we had previously decided not to take a detention suspension.

Why reject the offer of a detention suspension? Because we believe we are not mistaken. We were a peaceful demonstration, without violence. If you take it then it can be considered to admit that the demonstration was wrong and also can be arrested at any time by the Police. ‘Legs’ are not free.

My isolation cell is so hot. And I can’t turn off the lights because of the light outlet outside. If I turn off a lot of mosquitoes hit me. Indeed I was not beaten. But the mental attack they did by placing me in an isolation room. That’s their tactic to make it look human rights-friendly?.

A framing by State that Surya Wants to Be the President of Papua

Mr. Dwi Asih, The Head of Sub-Division State Security and Mr. Argo visited our cell. In the Ambros cell room. Both of them have been promoted now. Pak Argo even rose to become Inspector General of Police and entered the National Police Headquarters. After returning from their visit I heard from lawyers appearing in the media “framing” I want to be President of Papua. OMG!!!

I was framed for various things, there is starting from wanting to be the President of Papua, getting a dollar and euro funds, supporting 02, betraying the nation, etc. Perhaps common sense has lost that solidarity with the people of Papua is common and humane same as The Dutch people of the 40s were in solidarity with the Indonesian people.

The video when I was arrested at Plaza Indonesia on 31 August 2019 being ‘fried’ by the buzzer. They framing various kinds before I was arrested I was giving monitoring input to other NGOs. The choice of place is not what I specify. The government and the authorities like ‘fried frying’ anything.

Prosecutors and Police Hooked to Imprison People

In the Salemba Detention Center, while environment recognition, we met with around 20s DPR Demo prisoners, who were on average 19-23 years old. And Demo detainees in front of the Bawaslu office who had previously taken the Suspension of Detention but were jailed again to go through the judicial process. Their decisions averaged 4-5 months.

What’s sad about their case is how the police orientation criminates them. Even though they just took part in the demo. There are even some who did not take part in the demonstration but were arrested for hiding or crossing the red lane. Example: Farel who was accompanied by Okky from LBH Jakarta came home from work and passed the red zone. As soon as he saw the tear gas smoke, he stopped and hid at the ATM room, but he was arrested. And found guilty in Central Jakarta District Court. Not a matter of their small verdict but the Police and Prosecutors whose orientation is imprisoning people. The justice is forced and the sentence was forced too.

There was even a case in the Bawaslu demonstration. A man helped the unconscious police, but after helping him, he was arrested. There are also grab drivers who drop passengers but are caught. And in District Court, he was sentenced guilty verdict. What the f*ck right?! So where are Justices in this country friend?? …  The District Court doesn’t dare to take a different position.

We are lucky because there is a lot of solidarity like this picture in Mako Brimob. What about the Bawaslu and DPR demonstration children? Who are not referred to as Political Prisoner, but as a criminal? Without solidarity, we can’t healthy and safe from depression. That is the importance of solidarity and service.

‘Dragon Drops’ and ‘Swap Head’

You might hate drug convicts and criminals, but did you know that many of them experienced torture before being tried? Even before being found guilty. There is a term that I got in prison ‘”Dragon Drops”. For him to admit his actions, the police burned the plastic and the plastic drops were dropped on his skin or dipped body in water until you can’t breathe. Forced to admit that evidence was his. They also kick in the leg until it is bruised and can’t walk, only one month later be healed or toenails removed. The people who experience it, I met them in Prison. Thanks for their story.

There is also the term “Swap Head”, the police catch makes a deal with the police and then gives the name of someone else to replace him as the police catch. Our ‘Corvee’ (maid) in the Korean Shanties is a “Swapping Head” victim. Why were they be like this? Because the police seem to be chasing the target number of catches.

I also met the defendant with the 2000 rupiah gambling case. The four people came from East Nusa Tenggara. They work as a driver and microbus, not fixed-job. They played 2000 rupiah gambling on the side of the road in their usual parking terminal but they were arrested 7-month sentence.  How come the state put people into prison because of this fad play?

While in cell L2, I met a man of drug prisoners. He was visiting our cell. This man works as a motorcycle driver in Raden Saleh Street. This man was arrested because his occupant was a dealer and brought the methamphetamine too. This man is accused of being a dealer, but can’t be proven. Accused of the user, but the test result of his urine is negative. WTF!!!

“The Chaplet”, Clinic and Bathroom

At Salemba shelter barrack there are only 2 bathrooms. Inside the bathroom, there is 4 water shower. Only 3 are good. There are 4 taps, for washing dishes, ablution and urinating as well. Water Shower comes out 3 times a day. The prisoners shower together while looking at each other’s ‘stuff’. A hassle for transgender people, they have to wait until quiet first then they could take a shower.

There’s a lot of weird idea of prisoners to survive. Some have the expertise to make a ‘chaplet’. The chaplet is a toothbrush rod that is smoothed and rounded and then inserted into the skin of the penis shaft, then treated (put the toothpaste) on top of it. This treatment can make them feel ‘hop’. There is a prisoner who has 6 ‘chaplet’ on his penis.

Inmates are lazy to come to the clinic. Because if you sick, the doctor checks form the distance of three meters, can’t touch you. And medicine always the same, even though prisoners have various kinds of diseases. The clinic barracks are also dirty and smelly. When I was sick I refused to sleep in the clinic barracks. I worry that the pain will increase, even the duty doctor doesn’t exist.

“Suicide” Due to Failure to Pay Methamphetamine

Now about Suicide. There is one Batak person whom I know committed suicide because he failed to pay for the Methamphetamine business. He killed himself after being transferred to another prison.

Before it, I often heard the story of a prisoner who committed suicide because he owed methamphetamine to ‘Pharmacy’, sometimes they fear of the Collector Section (BNN) and combat troops (Pastem).

BNN (Charger Section) is the bill collector and boss of Methamphetamine. In-room J18, if there is an owed of Methamphetamine, BNN intervened. I was annoyed and held back my anger, because the bill collector often beating people in front of us or the upper room, in the pharmacy room, even at dawn and night. They have beaten people who are late paying for methamphetamine debt.

The problem of assimilation-free criminal inmates is also made complicated. The head of the Attorney General Office and District Court often postpone sentences. There are even prisoners who have not received a verdict for a long time. As a result, the Detention Center has not provided assimilation, even in the middle of the Covid pandemic. What we heard is, if we want to process, they need “lubricating” so that they could get a verdict letter quickly.

Narcotics inmates get the most “billed”. From arrest to the handling of Justice Collaborator, Conditional Leave, Parole (PB) is the most affected by “billed” for “lubricant” continuously. The result is there is overcapacity in the prison. Who can afford to pay continuously? Yes, only to the boss.

If the prisoner begs “the lost child”, can only hope to be free by assimilation, get JC or PB. If you are diligent, register to become Tamping Scout, Tamping Kitchen, and Tamping Cleanliness, which does not need money to be Tamping. While hoping that the management of JC, PB will be made easier until the Parole (PB).

Free from Prison

We were free on May 26th, 2020, the tiring of nine months. We were draining the energy and feelings of many people. I cannot imagine what would happen if there were no national and international solidarity with us. Maybe we were jailed for dozens of years for our peaceful political expression. When we are free Arina is not yet free.

An hour after being free the solidarity friends had prepared a joint thanksgiving event. But Arina Elopere, Jakarta Six, a Papuan Woman Political Prisoner, can only be released two days later (on May 28th, 2020). We were surprised why the calculation could be different.

Cadong rice is hard gravel, with perfunctory vegetables, sometimes fish, Tempe (local food), and meat. Prisoners call the fish “Indosiar” fish because the skin is thick with bones, the fish has little flesh. The meat we could swallow after chewed for 10 minutes. Chewy but hard, like tire rubber.

In Salemba Detention Center, I was finally forced to publish my clan, Ginting. Batak/Korean clans only for security and relations. I did that because prison is a “jungle” for me. Forced to use tribal relations. Though I rarely publish tribal appendages. In addition to the actions of the police who call my clan in the media.

Arina is pure free in two days after us. She was jailed in Pondok Bambu. I just knew her, when she was arrested at Mako Brimob, I didn’t know her before. She is a future priest. Her heart is soft. We are worried because she is alone in the Pondok Bambu prison. Her heart is strong. I was touched when she was free, tears flowed.

My Hope

I made this thread so that friends did not leave those imprisoned. They are also human. I hope there is a change from upstream to downstream. From regulations, law enforcement officers, and coaching. From the main concept, jail people to Restorative Justice. A fair court, not forced. Eradicate extortion and illegal levies.

I also hope to remain in solidarity with the Dozens of Papuan and Maluku Political prisoners who have not yet been sentenced and are not yet free. Thoughts should not be imprisoned. Opinions must not be silenced. I  hope not to be criminalized because of this twit thread. Smirking face with smiling eyes. Face with happy tears Goodnight… My hands are tired.

Uppss I just realized. Salemba Detention Center is a 1A class. If 1A class just like this, how about detention and prisons underneath? Even worse huh? Well, there is a Polish verdict from a Supreme Court MA of 7 years of treason article because he visited Wamena Papua. He was imprisoned in Wamena Regional Police Station. This is the first foreign political prisoner.

My criticism also goes to Legal Aid and Attorney Profit. Coming to the detention center offers legal assistance, even they already know the prisoner was poor, they consist to ask for money. After that, they did not come to the State Court. They just validate the recommendations of the police and prosecutors, so that they do not use lawyers, too complicated. Where is Pro Bono?

Remember this is the Law Defenders. Don’t forget the vision of Legal Aid, namely the vision of Justice and Truth.

Funny Stories in Prison

There is a funny but sad story. In the shelter, prisoners are buying a package of methamphetamine a one hundred thousand rupiah. When the package of methamphetamine came down from the 2nd floor of block A through the hole near my head, I smell it, the plastic contents are not methamphetamine but monosodium glutamate. They fooled him. Then there is a friend who charger the phone battery on the 2nd floor but it was missing, huft!! OTK (dirty brain).

There are various kinds of dirty brain problems in prisons. There is a friend of the DPR Demo Prisoners. Keeps 50 thousand rupiahs in panties that have zippers. He sleeps like a buffalo. When he woke up his money was gone somewhere. Not to mention that someone’s pocket was torn. Stolen cellphone or glasses must be redeemed by the owner.

About OT money, this is an old culture. Detainees from the Sector Police, Polres, and Polda told how they were in OT by the Head of Room who was told by the officers. And the officers also get OT money 50% – 60% in their pockets. If there is no money they share between the head of the room and his friend and in the end become a Corvee (maid) prisoner.

I give thumbs up to the Head of the Salemba Detention Center now in terms of emptying the Isolation Block; expanding clinic; improve shelter and lockdown Salemba faster than other detention centers and prisons. I told the story above so that we see this problem from upstream to downstream. Not just field operators and personal.

The Head of The Salemba Detention Center also helped urged that our verdict letters be immediately taken care of by Head of Attorney Office and Government Court. Although the next day The head of Salemba Detention Center Registration Bureau got a call from the State to cancel our assimilation because we are prisoners of treason article. There is seriousness in ensuring the rights of political prisoners. I appreciated that.

Once again. This overcapacity problem is upstream to the downstream problem. Problems with the law enforcement system, law enforcement orientation, and the mentality of law enforcement officers (APH), the Police, the Attorney’s Office, Courts/Judiciary/ Judges, and detention center. Prison residents are humans, not cans. (*)

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